I’ve heard the word, the discussions on what “home” means to different people, and have read numerous blog posts about the concept in the last year. And as you might expect, it’s a fairly big topic for those living outside of their passport country. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I’m even a bit tired of the conversation; not because it’s a bad one, but because I’ve been, in a sense, forced to consider the topic a lot these last 10 months.
I wasn’t looking to explore the topic of home, but moving away from the country you’ve grown up and known, and in which you are known to a degree you can’t be outside of it, somewhat forces you into considering it whether you want to or not. With that being said, I thought I’d explore what I’ve learned about the idea of home by writing about it. I’m comfortable – well, as much as someone who would, if left to my own preference and devices, put all of life into neat little boxes – knowing that my thoughts about home will shift and change the longer I live and the more I experience.
Before we moved to Thailand, I would have probably said, with about 95% confidence, that home is wherever I am with my husband and children. I’ve seen some pretty cool-looking wall decor that says, “Home is wherever I am with you” (denoting being with that special someone) and I like the thought. I really do. However, I could not hang such a sign in my house after learning what I have in the past year. My sign would have to say something like, “Home is largely … but not completely … wherever I am with you.” As much as I think such decor would bring about some interesting conversation with dinner guests, I think I’ll probably pass on having such a sign made for our walls at this time.
That idea that home is wherever I am with my husband and kids? It’s true, but I now would add some additional factors to a place being home. In the past year, I’ve discovered that, for me at least, the concept is a much more complex one than I had originally thought.
As I get older, I understand more and more that to be truly home is to be fully in the presence of God, the one who created me, knows me perfectly, and who made a way (Jesus) that I could be in perfect relationship with Him. The One in whose presence all that is broken and wrong with this world will fade away. I’ve now personally experienced or witnessed enough pain and consequences of both my own brokenness, as well as that of others, to be convinced deep down in my soul that this world is not as it should be. Because of this, I long for that eternal home more than I ever have, in varying degrees based on the day and my current circumstances.
But since my residence is currently set up on this earth, I now wrestle through what this concept of home currently means for me. As already established, it does, among other things, currently include being in the same place as my husband and two children. But beyond that, I now believe it includes being in a place where I am, in large part, understood by the culture and where I also understand – at least somewhat – the culture.
I remember the day months ago when I realize that I would never be very understood within Thai culture. This doesn’t sound like a profound realization; after all, why would I? I’m a guest in Thailand and I get that. We speak different languages, have very different histories (both as people and as the countries we’re from), and are very different culturally. But to feel in my gut that I live in a country where the majority of those around me will never culturally understand me? (Knowing that I’ll never completely understand them is also something I’ve considered, but that’s something to explore later.) That I’ll always be different? That, even if I could understand the language well (which I can’t beyond a very basic level), there will always be cultural nuances that I would have to explain because the way I think as a foreigner, and as an American, is very different? It brings about emotions hard to process. Such a realization can lend itself to a general feeling of lostness – how can I actually find my place here in Thailand if I’ll never “fit in?” It can also bring about a sense of loneliness, a general gut and heart “ache” at times.
Both things made me realize that America – or maybe more accurately, American culture (or at least parts of it) – is part of home for me. If I remained in Thailand for the rest of my life, I’m sure it would come to feel more like home. But knowing that I belong, in a sense that I never will here, in America, makes my passport nation – and its culture – part of home to me. That realization came as a surprise to me, although maybe it shouldn’t have. I just thought that home would be only wrapped up in the living of life with particular people, not with being part of a particular culture.
Maybe my thoughts on what home is will shift, maybe even in the near future. I’m guessing it will. Ah yes, yet another concept that refuses to be put away neatly in its own little box. As a result, I guess I’ll keep on living, considering, and understanding more about just what home means to me.
My husband has an ongoing personal project that explores the concept of home through interview, still photography, and video footage of various people of different ages, race, and geographical location within the United States (hopefully to be expanded soon!). Check it out here – look for “the home project.”