Some people feel secure in their understandings of home. Some end up chasing the feeling of home, of belonging, of worn-in comfort, for a long time. Others find that feeling within themselves and carry it with them wherever they go. I am entirely unsure into which category I fall, and that is where the existential thoughts come in. For some background, I am from outside of Boston, Massachusetts, but my parents and younger sister just moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico over the summer.
I, therefore, will be spending my first Thanksgiving away from “home” in an unknown and unfamiliar place. And even though I know my family will be there, it simply does not feel like coming home. It’s visiting a place I have little emotional connection to. Santa Fe, as a place, means very little to me; I hope that changes in the future, but that’s the current status of things. Massachusetts, on the other hand, is where I grew up and where some really important people in my life still reside. I grew up getting to see the leaves turn brilliant colors and witness snowfall on Christmas Eve. I actively miss hearing the rain on my roof and how my bare feet felt on the warped wood of my childhood house. So is home just weather? Or an accumulation of memories associated with a certain physical location?
Part of me also believes home is a mental state. It is not a pinned down location, but an overall feeling of returning to one’s natural state of being. I felt that way this summer when I led a canoeing trip in northern Maine for a week. Completely disconnected from society, without any cell service to tie me to civilization, I experienced an overwhelming sensation of peace. I slipped back into the rhythm of wilderness living so smoothly, and for once everything seemed to make sense. Instincts and years of experience drove me, and I can explain the feeling with only one word: home. If home is a mental state or a state of being, out in the middle of nowhere is home. There’s a small voice in my head that reminds me of the woods when existing in the “real world” becomes a little too much to handle.
Yet there is also the third view I have: Home is a feeling you get in different instances with specific people. For example, when it was 2 a.m. and I was lying on the floor of my room with roommate discussing highs and lows of our love lives, I felt entirely at home. It was a warm sensation that is hard to name when it’s occurring. I felt similarly as I walked through a foreign city, my best friend and me sharing an umbrella as it rained the entire day. There’s a sense of not really wishing to be elsewhere — but not because what’s happening is riveting. It’s because of the normalcy and ease of it. Home can simply be little instances with people you care about — or by yourself — that give you an intangible warm feeling in your chest.
Then again, I have to ask if Stanford is home now. I spend most of my time here, and I always return to the same bed. Whether it’s my room, my dorm, Stanford or California in general, this place is how most people back home identify me now: California girl. Stanford girl. West Coast kid. When I am here, I remind myself every day of where I am from, but I’m not really a part of that community anymore. I feel pulled in so many directions all at once. Santa Fe, Boston, the woods, Stanford, my friends, myself and several other places and moments. I suppose I’ll just have to wait until home finds me.
Contact Nina Knight at ngknight ‘at’ stanford.edu.