I had to write seven similes for my creative writing class. The idea of the task is to observe something really closely and practise your skills of description. I don’t feel particularly strong when it comes to describing anything, so instead I choose a more abstract notion and tried to find similes for that. The word I chose was home.
I have struggled with the meaning and definition of home for a while now, even before I moved out of my home country. I feel often feel “homeless” or “rootless”. I have never owned a place, so I don’t feel like there’s been a place that is mine alone, my home.
Obviously, there’s the home I grew up in. My parents still live there and I visit it as often as possible. (When I lived in Estonia, at least once a month, usually even more often.) For a brief period I moved back there only to realise that if you have moved out of home at the age of 15, it is difficult to move back again ten years later. I think a while ago I might have really hurt my mother’s feelings when I tried to talk to her about not having a home. She then in complete confusion tried to explain that I have a home there, with them. And I can’t argue with that. It is a home but It’s not my home, it’s our home.
For a brief period when I lived in Tallinn, I rented a
small tiny bedsit in a slightly dodgy area (I always felt pretty safe there). This was the first time in my life that I didn’t live with anyone else. I had the whole flat to myself (the whole 16 square metres!), I didn’t have to share anything. I didn’t have to take someone else’s plans into consideration when making my own. I could have friends over whenever I wanted. I liked that freedom.
Although that tiny, tight space might have been just mine (even though I was renting it), Tallinn was never a place that I felt at home in. I have realised now that I am not a city person and as many perks as there were about living in Tallinn, I wasn’t a fan. The one place I had really felt like home had been in Cumbria and Lake District.
So I moved here. But I no longer have a space to call my own. For last two years I have inhabited a room in the loft (i.e I’m the madwoman in the attic!) where I needed to move out over weekends as the house gets taken over by groups. I then move into the spare bedroom of my employers. They have beautiful house but I can’t help but feel like a guest and out of place.
However, when it comes to my surroundings, I have never felt more at home. I love the life in a small village, where people are polite and if they don’t know you, they are likely to know of you. The skyline of fells in the distance has become so familiar and at the same time, awe-strucking and surprising every time I look at it. On the one hand, it has been difficult to fit into a small community and my almost non-existent social life is at its all the low. On the other hand, I have been welcomed so warmly by so many people around here. About 18 months ago, I was heading for a run when a woman stopped me just outside the village, “You live in the village, don’t you? Why don’t you join our running group on Thursday nights?” And that’s how I ended up meeting fun people who like to run together and who in a way helped me to enjoy my first half-marathon. A few weeks ago I was being lazy and went to the local cafe for my lunch and got greeted with a hug from the owner. These little things mean so much to me. So although I haven’t made any real close friends (my employers excluded) or met the love of my life, I still feel like I have been noticed and acknowledged in the community. (I still feel crippling loneliness and homesickness for friends and family often enough…)
Will I ever be able to join all the dots that would mean to have my home for real? I don’t know. I appreciate the fact that I will always have a home with my parents. I appreciate even more that once when I was talking to S, my employer about this feeling of homelessness he said that I would always have a home here as well.
What makes a home for me then? It’s not so much about what the actual physical space is like but about the whole deal. It’s having my own space, something that is really mine. It’s about having that space in an environment that feels like a community. And it’s about having my people, my friends within that community. Is it too much to ask? Perhaps. God knows I can’t afford to step on the property ladder anytime soon unless I win the lottery or dig up that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Maybe I’ll forever be homeless and rootless and having to compromise.