What does that word mean to you?
For a lot of people it means stability, family, solace. A bulwark against the world, a place where they can go to be safe. It’s their one constant in the world. It might be filled with annoying family members, frustrating quirks, and an endless supply of dirty laundry and dishes, but to quote Robin Williams, “Hey, it’s home!”
I can’t really relate to that. For a very long time I thought I was broken. You see, even from a young age(we’re talking about 2 yrs old and on), I never had a stable place that I thought of as “home”. I have attended 13 grade schools, 2 junior highs and 1 high school. From two years old on, I’m not sure exactly how many places I’ve lived in, but it exceeds those numbers. I have quite literally woken up in 1 place and come home later that day to find out that I don’t live there any more. When you grow up like that, the idea of stability is no longer associated with a location or dwelling, there is nothing permanent to latch on to. If you have any semblance of stability at all, it’s with the idea that you can only rely on yourself to handle any situation no matter what the circumstances. You survive because that’s what you have to do.
That’s me. A 5 bedroom home or homeless, I already know that things can be worse, and often are. No matter what happens, I’ve seen it before and I can deal with it.
That’s what the concept of “home” means to me. It means nothing, really. Definitely not something I can depend on. Not ever.
My wife, in an honest compliment she’s actually said about me, despite as much frustration as she has with that, has said, “Dan handles changes so easily.”
And I do.
Something new comes up and I just deal with it, it doesn’t matter what it is. I take care of business.
What isn’t said, what isn’t understood by anyone that hasn’t been there themselves, is that, that kind of flexibility comes at the cost of never knowing what trust is, never know what stability is like. At 43 years of age, I only know what those things are because of other people, of knowing how other people live. I grew up dreaming of those things the way other kids dreamed of going to space, Santa Claus, or becoming a star athlete. I have literally wished for that the way other kids wished for a puppy or some other dream to come true. To come home to something that is certain, that you can rely on? No, that’s not what I know. Not then, not now. There was a time when I would have given my entire life for the whole, “Leave it to Beaver” thing. Now I just raise my middle finger and do what has to be done.
Every day is a day where I expect everything to fall apart. A day where nothing I know right this moment is still the same. Some people might refer to that as PTSD, I call it Monday morning.
I could go on, but really, this is where I am coming from. Last Friday I got a text message, “Hey Dan, we’re thinking of putting our house on the market. Can the realtor come by for a walkthrough on Saturday?” In one second I no longer had a home. For three years I had a place that I could return to every day, that my kids and family could depend on every day, no matter what. In a flash of 100% profit, I’m homeless. That’s what “home” means to me.
Approximately 43 million people rent in the US. That’s 43 million homes, some 100 million people, whose lives can change in an instant, no matter the circumstances, no matter their job, payment history, character or context. It often has nothing to do with them. What kind of “home” do you know?