home (verb): return by instinct to its territory after leaving it

PC 8 The Kennedy Family at Hyannis Port, 1931. L-R: Robert Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy, Jean Kennedy (on lap of) Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (behind) Patricia Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. (behind) Rosemary Kennedy. Dog in foreground is “Buddy”. Photograph by Richard Sears in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Hey paftamag readers! It’s Göksu! Just sharing some thoughts and murmurs (catch that New Yorker reference) that have been going through my head — if, at any point, you feel like I’m destroying your will to live with my wanna-be philosophical-ish statements, please do stop reading.

What is “home”?

I’ve been thinking about what home is a lot recently, mainly because I’m trying to figure out where my home is. Or, to put it better, what my home feels like.

I had always thought home would be a place. A house. A living room. One’s bed.

I disagree with that now. Home is more a feeling than a place.

I like to believe that we associate those feelings of “home” with certain places, and that’s why those places become homes. We feel comfortable. We feel secure. We feel like we know what to expect — and that brings us peace. That’s for me at least. And I think I come to realise that I’ve associated those feelings with certain places only after I’ve left those places.

I’ve been leaving places a lot lately.

I first moved to Istanbul to go to high school from my hometown, Ankara. And I had an incredibly hard time getting used to this new city. I was 15. For the first two years of it, “home” was always Ankara. I used to get that weird feeling in my stomach and the annoying knot on my throat whenever I was at the airport to get back to school in Istanbul. Fast forward three years, and I was done with high school, mourning my departure from the most beautiful city there ever was, as I then came to think of it. I hadn’t realised as it was happening, but Istanbul had become another home to me.

I’ve spent the past year trying to make out of a completely new place, a new university, another home. I just finished my first year at the end of June, and looking back at it, I can’t say that I’ve entirely succeeded yet. I don’t feel like I’m a hundred percent happy and comfortable with the way I feel in England. I like it there; I enjoy my time there; but it isn’t home yet—I don’t know if it ever will be.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been in Kakamega, Kenya. I’m going to be here, away from those feelings of “home” for the next two months. And sometimes, the whole experience and timeline ahead seems daunting. I think that’s mainly because I spent a whole year away from home, trying to create a place that felt like home out of a new place, new university, new country. Leaving for yet another thing “new” after so little time spent at home is what makes it even harder for me. I went from one way of longing for home to another. I haven’t been at home, in that comfortable state, without my worries for a long time.

I think the term most commonly used for these “home” feelings I’ve been talking about is the “comfort zone”. The comfort zone that everyone needs to push themselves out of, according to every self-love blog-post, and every personal development book there is. From a distance, I always admire people who push themselves out of the comfort zone. They look like such adventurous spirits — fearless; passionate about trying new things; constantly looking for new experiences to live, new people to meet, new places to go. They seem like they’re making the most out of this short life we’re given. I want to be like them.

Then again, I like to find one restaurant that I love and go there a lot of times. I like it when the  barista at my regular coffee shop knows what drink I’m going to order before I order it. I like reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the seventh time.

The more I think about it, the more I realise I actually hate leaving my comfort zone. The mood  and emotional fluctuations I experience when “change” is approaching have become so familiar that I find myself worrying about the feelings I will get even before I actually get those feelings. I start fearing what I don’t know — what to expect, how I’m going to feel, the people I’m going to meet… And every time I do push myself out of that security, that “home” feeling, and start getting the occasional, but all too familiar homesickness cramps in my stomach, I start questioning myself. Why did I have to go to university in a different country? Why did I choose to spend the summer in a different continent, just to get these new experiences? If I’m perfectly happy, serene, and secure at places I call “home”, why do I keep trying to run away from that home feeling I love so much to feelings of uncertainty and worry? Do you already feel suffocated by my questions? Well, then, you’ve probably felt one hundredth of what I feel when I have these confrontations with myself.

But I think I’ve found an answer.

I think there is a reason why people think it’s good to push oneself out of the comfort zone. The more you push yourself out of it, the more your comfort zone expands. Every time you get away from that “home”, you try and create a new home. So it actually isn’t necessarily getting out of something, it’s actually sewing a bigger web of comfort around you. (Did you just picture a mini-spider weaving a web that keeps getting bigger and bigger, just so it has a more comfortable place to sleep in? Maybe a little pillow? Okay this is a digression).

Sometimes you’re lucky, and you get a new home, a new place you can associate with those feelings of comfort and worry-less state; another place you can’t help but have a stupid smile on your face when your flight lands to: eventually getting to that feeling, I believe, is worth going through the awful, throat-knotted, butterfly-stomached period of time, although while experiencing those feelings, I always think it isn’t.

Friends, food, streets, the way the sun sets, the noises you hear on the street, the way the people look (or don’t look) at you on the street, that one and only shop that has the best ice-cream flavour you’ve tasted, that track you love running on so much. They make home.

Other times, when you can’t quite get yourself to feel those feelings of home, the process only helps you appreciate home that much more.

Home isn’t a place—it’s a feeling. And I’d love to have more homes on the world, which is why I think I’ll keep pushing myself the hard way.