The Hunt for Home: A Twenty-Something’s Tale
When I first moved to D.C., I remember standing in front of a bedroom display at Crate & Barrel wondering which trinkets I could purchase to make my new, barren space feel like home. With frames, throw pillows, and potpourri all reminiscent of the home I had left behind, I attempted to trick myself into believing that I had not moved at all. I filled my 800 square feet with an unsettling combination of familiar and unfamiliar, making my space look neither like the home I had left, nor the fresh beginning I had dreamed of; I lived in an in-between space. My interior design approach to crafting a home—though costly, time consuming, and only aesthetically mediocre—proved insufficient.
I visited my childhood home only months after moving to D.C. I sat on my bed, clutching a stuffed animal, wishing that I could make the space come alive again. Everything was just where I had left it, and it was I who no longer fit. People labored to reassure me that home was wherever the people you love are. I found instead that the only thing that is where people you love are is, oddly enough, the people you love.
“Just find a routine,” people would tell me. “Once you have a routine, D.C. will feel like home too.” So I did just that. Almost obsessively, I found a metro route to stick to, discovered a coffee shop that proved promising, and befriended venders at a farmers’ market. Gradually, I was comforted by the possibility that I might run into someone I knew on the street, that if I heard my name called it might indeed be summoning me. People began asking me for directions, I made fabulous friends, and I found a hair stylist who understood what I meant by “natural” blonde.
D.C. enchanted me as it has done others, flirting with me through fall and eventually winning my heart in the springtime. I became a D.C. loyalist, raving to those who would listen (and mostly those who would not) about a city where cars stream NPR instead of pop music and brunch is served until 3pm. I discovered the hidden jazz clubs and quality falafel that make any city feel like yours. I complained about tourists, read three newspapers daily, and learned policy lingo as proof of residency.
Last week, I found myself walking down my beloved New York streets, disconcerted by the unfamiliar mixture of smells and sounds, feeling more like a cinematic foreigner than a native. The city was busier and more crowded than I had remembered, more metallic and less accessible. In a city that has long been home, I felt oddly homesick—perhaps for D.C., but more so, for what feels like the beginnings of my own life. Despite my imagination, New York had not changed; I had.
It took me two years, a series of unfortunate throw pillows, and one alluring city to understand that at twenty-something, home is not a place to be found, but a search to be had. I haven’t been looking for a home, but rather a life to fill the home with. I’m looking for the woman living within the oddly decorated 800 square feet—something that even the Crate & Barrel bedroom section seemed not to carry.
Image from http://www.shelterpop.com/2010/09/07/your-childhood-bedroom-just-as-you-left-it/