Home is where the heart is. There’s no place like home. Home is where your loved ones are. Home is what you make it. Home can be a person. These are all things we’ve all heard, maybe even said, a thousand times. So what does home mean to you? Does it have to be restricted to one place or just one person?
I’ve lived away from my actual home since I was eighteen. So for almost ten years I’ve had time to find another, to make my own home. Much to my own surprise, that’s now in Coventry. I didn’t see it coming. But I like it; it’s quieter than Leicester but still with lots of places I like to go to. It’s where my best friend, my boyfriend, is from and so even though my family may not be there, his are. They’re nice enough to extend their love to me too, so I’m lucky. It feels like home most of the time. Except that one, small part of me that knows it’s not quite. Why? It’s certainly not because I’m unhappy, it’s simply because I miss my parents. And from time to time my mind does wander back to how much I miss having a beach on my doorstep.
Home in the conventional sense is Grimsby. I know, I know, ‘where?’ is probably what you’re thinking. It’s on the North East coast, a small place, devoid of a true industry other than tourism since fishing fell by the wayside. I’ll admit I was pretty downbeat on it as a kid. If you wonder why, we lacked things others did. For a while we didn’t even have a cinema, we had to drive forty-five minutes for one. Everything was so far away. Thousands of tourists flock in each year, it’s a popular destination, but I can tell you that as a sixteen year old kid who’s thinking about growing up and what you want, it’s not ideal. So I did what I thought best at the time. I went to university and I never came back. Well, other than to visit. It’s not a decision I regret. There was nothing for me back there and I’ve little doubt that I wouldn’t have just settled in the job I was and worked my up. It was a retail job. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it certainly wasn’t what I wanted.
The truth is, without my family, I’d have felt nothing of the feelings we associate with home. I’ve often thought about what home means to me. It usually comes back to the same two things; a sense of belonging and of feeling safe. Both are never things I really felt in Grimsby. I was the first in my family to be born there so perhaps the lack of belonging was natural. As a kid and teenager, I longed for the weekends when often we went elsewhere. Leicester quickly became a second home, one I certainly felt I belonged. It’s tough enough being a teenage girl and feeling like you don’t fit in, isn’t helpful. I never really felt that way in Leicester. If I was at the football, I felt surrounded by an extended family, generally safe. I never felt out of place. It made the decision of where to go to university that much easier.
So yeah, I get homesick from time to time but it’s for my family, not for the place. I’m in Coventry now having spent a few days back in Grimsby. It’s always odd to go back. I always enjoy seeing my parents but the place, the town, feels even less of a home than it did before. It’s getting better, slowly, they just got their first Papa John’s open for example. But it’s got a way to go and I cannot imagine moving back here. In an ideal world, I’d ship my parents to live much closer! Does anybody else find this? That going back to a place where you spent so much time, that you grew, almost feels alien.
Part of me thinks sixteen year old me wouldn’t even really know me anymore. A lot’s changed in the near twelve years since. I was a little lost then, I felt super disconnected to everything. I had no idea what I wanted and how to get it. Sure, sometimes I still feel that way but generally, I know. I’m more confident, happier in myself and much smarter. Some things have stuck; I still listen to Sum 41 albums from back then and my interests are largely the same. Current me would laugh at the then me who contemplated not leaving for a boy. Like, really. The time away has also made me appreciate coming home more. That time to spend with my family, relaxing from the pressures of work etc. It’s invaluable really. Perhaps it’s a little ironic that these days, if I feel lost, it’s nice to take time out and reconnect with home, go back and see my family.
Home doesn’t have to be limited to a single place or person. It’s a feeling really. There’s a great quote from Robert Frost that I think sums up my own experiences perfectly – “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” and it made me realise that I’ve only ever truly been happy and felt at home when I can be near somebody/bodies I love. There are places, however, I’ve been on holiday that have felt like somewhere I could truly lay down roots and live in. I felt that way in both Copenhagen and in Maine, even though they’re miles apart and entirely different places. I still feel that way about Whitby, a place we visited frequently when I was growing up. Perhaps the common link for me is all these places, aside from where I actually live, have or are surrounded by a body of water. Usually some sand. Similarly to the place I was born, the place I was so keen to leave when I was eighteen.