Home is Not a Place – Third Place Winner in the Midwestern Region Blog Contest
By Haley Helgesen
Throughout my childhood, the word “home” was an unattainable, abstract concept. Teachers and mentors often described home as a permanent place inhabited by family and friends, an environment lovingly developed and nurtured over time; but I struggled with this idea, as I had never experienced permanence. Between my dad’s constant relocation for the military, my parent’s divorce, and other life happenstances, my little brother Nathan’s and my entire adolescence was nomadic and our “home” changed consistently five times a year for sixteen years. Home was a variable dependent on any given time of year, custodial agreement, or current military tour. The reality of my home was flexible and multi-stationary, each location having its own set of governances, traditions, and histories.
As a result, the word carried little meaning in my adolescent life. The very idea of designating one single place as a home conflicted deeply with my life experience. It was overwhelmingly complex. I was incredibly jealous of my friends, who had all lived in the same location their entire lives. They didn’t wrestle with redefining the word every year, or even several times a year, as Nathan and I did. This grated on me for the majority of my adolescence, until I had a sudden realization.
For me, home is not necessarily a specific place. It is not inherently defined by a building, city, state, or parent, but rather where I feel a certain state of being. Home is somewhere I feel safe, secure, accepted, loved, and needed. I found my home wasn’t with either parent in whichever state they lived, but rather wherever Nathan was. It was he alone who endured our turbulent custody changes and constant moves, often travelling hundreds of hours via car or airplane with me. Consequently, he is one of the few people in the world who knows me as I truly am. Nathan is the only other person in the world who has experienced the same exact slipping definition of home. He is my family and friend, but more than that, whenever I am with him, I am home. Everything I am today, Nathan helped me to become. If home is where the heart is, then I need look no further than my brother and the concept of home that we created together.