I’ve been told that “home is where the heart is,” and I know it’s the people in a home that make it homely. There’s no question leaving home is one of the hardest young people ever do in their lives, but I also believe moving away from home is a requirement. From my own experiences, “home” is a state of mind more than a location. I have many homes, and among them are buildings, rooms, piers and, probably the most homely of them all, is in my parents’ arms. There’s something amazingly settling about being held by mom or dad.
Home is dysfunctional. It is that distinct lack of functionality that makes home home. Home is not the perfect, two-and-a-half children family. Home is as many kids as there are dogs craziness. Home is different for every person. But one similarity every “home” shares is an unquestionable sense of connection. Homes connect families. Home brings mom, dad and kids together around the dinner table. Homes bring siblings into crazy (and often pointless) arguments.
Tallahassee became home. I started saying “I have to go home in August,” when I would visit Naples for breaks from school. It got to that level of comfort. It was that familiar; I think homeliness is due to a kind of familiarity. When we become accustomed to the toothbrush being on that side of the sink, the length of time it would take to run out of hot water in the shower or how often the dogs need to go outside we allow ourselves to become part of the home we are in. Home is the familiar. Home is the usual. Home is the comfort. Home is mom asking whether you want fried or scrambled eggs. Home is dad waking you up (against your will) to go fishing at 6 a.m. Home is being around the people who you know love you and loving them in return. Home is that one particular harbor. Home is that song of movie that reminds you of someone you once lost.
It has been 1,490 days since I left for college the first time. On June 8, 2008, I left the comfort of my parents’ home to embark on what would become the greatest period of personal growth I have experienced yet. Actually, you know what? It wasn’t my greatest period of personal growth, it was my greatest time of overall growth: personally, professionally and educationally. Tallahassee, while maybe not the “educational center of the world,” was exactly where I needed to be for the four years I spent there. I learned so much from my friends, teachers and mentors at Florida State and Florida A&M Universities. I am truly grateful, and there are not enough words in the English language (or the Spanish language, for that matter) to express the depth of my gratitude.
Leaving home is hard, but I believe it’s necessary. Leaving that which is familiar pushes you out of your comfort zone. Getting out of your comfort zone allows you to explore part of you that may not have ever surfaced at home. What happens if you leave your house at 1 a.m. while mom and dad sleep? You’re “sneaking out.” That same act is called “going out” when you leave your dorm room at 1 a.m. Some call it freedom; I’ve heard some call it hell. Whatever it means to each individual is decided by them and only them. Leaving home allows immeasurable growth of your person. Leaving home allows you to create new homes. Leaving home allows you to create new families. It allows you to determine your own fortune. Leaving home allows you to come back home.
I write this to say, simply—very simply—home is a state of mind, not a state of address.