[Note: I know, I know. I blog about home A LOT. But I figured that since I was required to journal about it for one of my assignments, and I resonated a lot with this topic, I might as well post it here - in the hopes that someone who reads this will find comfort despite the uncertainties of life and recognize that there is indeed good that comes out of goodbye.]
I thought it'd be hard to leave both of my homes to come to England for a semester abroad, but I have been so blessed because in my journey here, I get a taste of both my homes through the wonderful Calvin students I am with and the Malaysian friends I get to meet throughout the semester.
I thought I'd be sad, miserable, and homesick all the time, but the reality is that I am so preoccupied with discovering York, England, and beyond that I barely have time to miss home.
(Even though I wish I was sharing this amazing moment with everyone back home.)
Speaking of home, I have been contemplating the meaning of home lately. What is it? What makes home, home?
Having only recently accepted Grand Rapids as my second home, I began to wonder why it took me so long. It certainly wasn’t the place – nothing much has changed in the one and a half years I’ve been in Calvin College. Could it be the community and friends that I have made? Maybe. But that should’ve been true for me during my freshman year too! So, why didn’t I think of Grand Rapids as my second home during my freshman year? Why did it take me so long to recognize Grand Rapids as my second home?
I think that home is the place (or environment) that you live in, leave from, and desire to return to upon leaving. It consists of the things that I found comfort in through familiarity by living in the place (being integrated into the place and community). It consists of the things I never knew I loved, cherished, and appreciated until I found out that I would leave it. It consists of the things that I reminisce and yearn to return to – my friends, my house, my favorite restaurants, my routines and so on.
The same is true for both Malaysia and Grand Rapids. When I realized that I would leave Malaysia for Calvin College, I was filled with excitement for what would come, but I quickly realized what I would soon leave behind – home. The realization of Malaysia being home made it harder to leave the second time around when I went home for summer because I came to see the true extent of what I would be leaving behind. Then, when I realized that I would be leaving for York this semester, I once again realized what I would leave behind – my second home.
Home does not become home until I leave it. The familiar isn’t familiar until I encounter the unfamiliar. I often take the present for granted – looking back in time with nostalgia, reminiscing the good old times; looking forward in time, excited for the things to come; but only going through the motions with the present. And so, home becomes truly home when it is something of the past (when I leave it) and something of the future (the desire to return).
I’m beginning to see this being true of York as well. As we venture out on our excursions on weekends, nothing beats the feeling of returning to York – the excitement and comfort that comes from knowing what we left behind in the pursuit of other places. Perhaps the greatest moment when York will truly be home is when we leave for Grand Rapids in May.
Having said that, home isn’t simply what I leave behind in the past or what I yearn to return to in the future. It is also what I carry with me in the present. It is because of my nostalgia and my desire to return that it occupies my mind in the present as I constantly compare and contrast home with the foreign land that I am in. I also find myself taking pride (and being more obnoxious) in promoting my home(s) to others. I suddenly find that I am able to bring bits and pieces of home with me when I introduce my home to others as it presents itself within me, as if I were some sort of embodiment of my home(s).
And so, I look for the good, creating memories and stories wherever I go, so that when I bid my goodbyes I will carry with me the good that came from my newfound home for the days to come.
Since the element of leaving is crucial to my understanding of home, there exists this constant tension between moving and staying put – doing one or the other as an extreme makes me uncomfortable. I guess I am starting to come to terms with the fact that change is such a natural thing in life; that no matter how hard I try to cling on to the securities of life, things (people, places, cultures etc.) will change. I will change.
In a world that recognizes change as the only constant in life, this truly looks like an unstable, insecure, and insane way to live and identify home(s). It seems so uncertain, and where uncertainty rears its head, there lies anxiety. But no matter where I am and where I call home, my faithful God is there with me every step of my journey. He is my anchor in the uncertain storms of life.
Above all, I am at home where He is with me.