I've called four places home in my life. My first was just for a few years, as my family and I moved when I was five years old. I have a few memories - albeit sketchy ones - from my first house, but tonnes of them at my current one. I still live at home with my parents and slightly-younger sister, but here, there's no stigma as there seems to be in North America. You can live at home, have a job, contribute to the household, and come and go as you please while still being 'normal.'
There's a gentle feeling of continuity, of rootedness, that comes from being able to look around at furniture, fixtures, walls that have been there since before you 'knew yourself.' The bed I sleep on, the room I use, have been mine since I was 11 years old (prior to that I shared a room with my sister). The colours and decor have changed, yes, but these four walls have held my teenage angst and tears, seen my first-job jitters, cradled my prayers. Those simple things, the familiarity of it all, make me feel supported and safe.
My other two homes were outside of the country and from my twenties. At 21, I spent seven months in small-town France teaching English. There, I had a room on the third floor of the school. It was basic - a bed, sink, wardrobe, and desk only - with a communal bathroom at the end of the corridor. I chuckle now because it's amazing what little you can make do with in your teens and early twenties! But in retrospect, it wasn't bad. On weekends, I was mostly alone on that third floor. The smart phone / tablet craze was still a decade away, so I checked my email every few days in the computer room downstairs, and holed up in my room at night, devouring the English novels I'd packed (no Kindle then!). I wasn't lonely, just alone - a first that I relished. As an HSP who can feel smothered by crowds and small talk, I enjoyed it. Some days my only company was an old television that a fellow teacher lent me. With a book propped strategically against the antenna to give some nuance of colour, I would spend Thursday nights especially, watching France's version of American Idol. Invariably, while scarfing down chocolate-covered biscuit sticks in the quiet glow of the tv.
My other home was in the UK when I was 25. It was a student residence where I had another basic room, but with a bathroom this time, and a shared kitchen for 4 other students. I was just four years older this time, but was running from a shattered heart, which inevitably followed me. Instead of staying home and facing it, at that time I had thought that escaping abroad to study would bring healing. Out of sight, out of mind. But travel was only a temporary - and expensive - distraction. My pain often clouded my day-to-day relationships with others and made me turn inward in a tangle of wariness. Still, there was beauty. I had the freedom to take my time; to have cereal for dinner without a mother to cast a disapproving glance; to leave dirty tea mugs aside for a few days, with only my nose to scold me into washing up! :) I loved being in an environment where I could fully devote myself to my languages, and felt a sweet high as I sat alone on the bedroom floor at night, my laptop on the edge of the bed and a single berry-scented candle flickering softly, as I typed away.
Where have you lived? Where do you feel at home? Has solitude been a sad constant for you, or a cherished rarity?