When I type ‘home’ from my keypad, I see a (admittedly old-fashioned) cottage surrounded by tall bluebells and friendly grass in my mind’s eye. Viewing it objectively, it’s a comical little place—it almost has a gingerbread roof and white marzipan frosting around the windows. I can only interpret this mirage as my inner-self humorously replaying what the real me has understood for quite some time: my idea of ‘home’ can never really exist.
‘Home’, to me, represents identity, comfort, safety and personal history. I’m a mean unpacker, I have ninja-esque organizing skills and a talent for making a new place inviting quickly. The practical skills for making any apartment warm, safe and ‘my own’ has been sewn into my DNA. These spaces haven’t leveled-up to ‘homes’ because I have not had an opportunity to create a history with them. No matter how happily I can set up a house, I doubt I will ever belong to one long enough to feel like it is anything more.
I promise it’s not a deliberate act of indifference. In fact, I greet my now apartment with “tadaima” at the front door, because I adore every inch of it, from the inky views of the city to the comforting grey wall that runs down to the living room (never mind that since I’m super single this technically counts as talking to myself).
Is this idea of a mythical, long-standing, childhood home unfair? I could be making things difficult for myself. Believing that ‘returning home’ means joining Mum, Dad and my sister in a house we’ve lived in since my birth to snack on freshly baked cookies is an immensely specific slice of an enormous concept. But that doesn’t matter to me. I am fond of this little invisible house, trust my perspective and can balance it well beside different (and just as valid) interpretations of what others think ‘home’ is. (I am less sure about where the idea of this little house came from but I suspect Enid Blyton and watching Modern Family in an endless loop are to blame.)
Have I lost something I never had? It’s not that simple. As much as I vaguely wonder about what a brick-and-mortar home could have been—I am completely free. I have the true ability to live anywhere I chose, with real understanding that I can make my rental my own, find work, curate new friends and keep the old ones in my life easily. Yes, postage and organising quotes and real estate agents are a bitch, but I have no real fear about starting over. I have the ability to endlessly move forward without the need or the longing to return back to one place. Not having a home has become an important part of my identity that I love and that I am proud of.
As a third culture kid, many of us have an Achilles heel when it comes to compassionately accepting who we are. I am almost thirty, and I don’t own a property because I want to travel more; marriage makes me feel uncomfortable because it might mean kids and suburbia; I have never owned an ironing board because it’s such an awkward item to store and I don’t know how to drive because I’ve never been in one place long enough. Saying “I don’t have a home” sounds like something to pity me for too. It has always helped to (graciously and empathetically) subtract others’ expectations, family beliefs and Sri Lankan and Australian cultural norms before I look at the experiences I have had and the choices I have made. When I take away these ‘extras’, I am left with a life I am happy with, many more adventures on the way, and a tasty summer marzipan house to daydream about.
*tadaima: the Japanese equivalent of “I’m home!” *third culture kid: a person who has created their own culture from the multiple cultures they have lived in.
Ava Senaratne is the Editor-In-Chief at TCK TOWN, a journal which celebrates and explores cultural diversity.
Read more at www.tcktown.com and get inspired!