Home. I promise I won’t give you the generic dictionary definition to help you better understand where I’m going with this, why?… Well, because “home” is just too ambiguous to have just one definition.
I’ve tried. I’ve tried to summarize what Google and the dictionary tell me – home is supposed to where one lives permanently, where they are part of a family. But as hard as I have tried to make these definitions make sense with what I’m feeling, I’m realizing that I can’t summarize this four letter word into something so cut and dry.
I guess it should be, I mean it is true that for the past twenty years of my life “home” has mostly been a quiet suburb of Chicago. Home was simply one 1,500 sq ft house, three other individuals and a large group of friends and family. With those people and city, I’ve always felt at peace, I’ve always felt belonging. I’ve never had to give a second thought to where or what home was for me – it was obvious.
Then, the unexpected happened. I graduated college and moved to a new city, where I had absolutely no family or friends but also no intention of staying permanently. When the original short trip of three months changed to a stay of unknown length… this was when I first realized I didn’t know what to call San Francisco. Was it home? I didn’t think so, at least not yet.
Looking back today, San Francisco was definitely not home to me in those first months. And I’ll be the first to tell you, I definitely didn’t call it that either. I lived like a tourist, I felt like a tourist, but the contagious energy flowing from the city into me was undeniable. I had never felt this excitement and connection to any one place before. While I acknowledged this new feeling, it took me a good four/five months before the word “home” naturally rolled off my tongue when referring to SF.
And, today, here I am sitting in my first apartment, in San Francisco, looking back at the past ten months of my life, and can undoubtedly say this place is my home, my second home. I look out the window, to see rain outside, and buses driving by, and each and everything I see out there has some sort of connection to my life. I see the bus I take to work everyday, I see my neighbor walking their dog, I see my friends apartment …. I see my home.
I’ve been trying to pinpoint that exact moment where San Francisco became more than just a quick pit stop in my life.. when it became home – but I don’t think there is just one moment. The experience, the people and the energy of belonging.. I think its the fusion of these tiny moments and experiences have lead me to today, where calling two completely different cities “home” happens without a second thought.
And in this, I’ll be honest, I didn’t know it was possible to call two places home – two entirely different types of home. For the entirety of my life, up until this point, home had simply been where my family was, but here… I have no family, like in Chicago… but this place is my own, and it fills me with energy that I have never felt before in my life. I look around and can’t help but feel the heartache of the day that I have to say goodbye to the place and people that have shaped me and changed me. This city has made me stronger, braver and more confident. In all honestly, San Francisco has stolen my heart.
The day I stepped off that airplane, I was a tourist. But along the way this Pacific air filled my heart and ignited a new sense of belonging, a sense that I had found something new to call “my place”, and streets that were mine. I was no longer a visitor, but instead a settler. These days, I walk around the city and imagine what my life would have been if I hadn’t found my second home. My heart is fuller, my eyes are brighter and the excitement to explore this city is just as alive as the day I arrived.
I’ve learned one thing in all this, and it’s that home isn’t just the place where family is – as cliche as it sounds, it’s where the heart is. And if I’m being honest, a piece of my heart will always stay in San Francisco, long past the day I say my goodbyes.
It’s exciting to have found a place across the country that makes me feel this way, and its nice to think that years from now, this city and its sweet spots will still be here with every memory attached for me to look back upon. But till that bittersweet day comes, I’m grateful for the chance to have found a city that makes me feel so alive and with each day teaching me something new.
Here’s to adventure and the unexpected, because without those two things, home (& I) wouldn’t be the same!