I’ve been thinking a lot about the word home. It rolls off my tongue in a strange way, like something foreign. But maybe some of us were meant to wander. Maybe some of us were meant to leave our homes behind in exchange for finding new ones. What makes a home a home? The answer lies somewhere between a dictionary definition and the cliché response, and it isn’t an absolute.
Fair warning: Most of the questions asked here won’t be answered. They are here, and they might cause you to wonder and think. The word “maybe” will be used frequently.
I think of home often, but I don’t know if I miss it.
Where we are from is something bigger than ourselves. We are made up of the moments that happened and the lessons learned there. I am from Pointe-ala-hache, Louisiana. I spent my first nine years fishing and playing sports, riding four-wheelers and bikes, and hand-in-hand with my father and his father. Pointe-ala-hache is not the most eventful of places. There is not much to do and nowhere to go, but it was all I knew. It’s a mix of bayou and country, and thanks to it I can find beauty in anything, even the muddy waters of the Mississippi River. Some days I miss my parents and my sister, other days I’m grateful to live alongside my teammates. Whether it’s the physical place, the people, love, or the lack of these things, home essentially creates us. So what happens when we no longer connect with it?
Louisiana, Sportsman’s Paradise, NOLA, bayous—all of these things once meant something to me. The words were mine. I shaped them into what they meant. All of my hopes and dreams once lay in it. Now here I am, almost 20, living 400 miles away in a cinder-block room roughly 13 feet x 10 feet.
When I was a child, I thought the world was only kind. One night I went to sleep and everything was normal; I woke up the next morning and “home” was no longer a thing. Hurricane Katrina wrecked the Gulf Coast in August of 2005. She took life as we knew it along for the ride. Since that time I have lived in five different physical spaces, some of them much nicer than others. Some of them I left behind sadly, wishing to stay a bit longer; others, I haven’t thought about since leaving them. I was equally loved in all of them, surrounded by my family, and always led a safe and healthy life. Some were just better homes than others. My favorite of all these temporary living arrangements was our earliest. There were about a dozen of us living in my aunt’s one-family home the first few months after the hurricane.
One room was shared by six of us. My bed was the floor, and my friends were my cousins. Although being surrounded by family is something I am grateful to have experienced, most can agree that the situation was less than ideal. It was my home though. It stayed my home until we moved out and into the place that was by far my least favorite. Our next living arrangement was an apartment we moved into while our house was being rebuilt. My sister and I shared a room next to our parents and we were right across the street from a skating rink. There was nothing exceptionally bad about the apartment. It was nice and cozy and, unlike our previous arrangements, I had an actual bed. Both were home at one point, but my feelings for them were far from equal. It doesn’t stop here. So what is it that made one more of a “home” than the other? The question doesn’t stop here. As my life went on, I continued moving.
Now here I am in Memphis, Tennessee in a cement dorm room. The photos on the walls are of friends that my parents have never met. My name is on the door, the sheets smell like me, and the piles of clothes on the floor are definitely mine, and honestly it feels like home. Louisiana, Sportsman’s Paradise, NOLA, bayous, Memphis, Tennessee, Elvis, and Grizz are my vocabulary now. I have been shaped by these words. I stake a claim in their ownership. At first I thought it could only be one or the other. Tennessee or Louisiana, which one would I choose? Luckily, the decision wasn’t necessary, even though in my head I had made it so. My young life was molded by my hometown, my family, and even the way Hurricane Katrina altered us. In this way it will be with me forever. My adult life has started in Memphis, and this city will have it’s place in my life as well.
Hundreds of words later and I am still left with the same question that started this.
What is home?
Maybe home is an essence, something we feel, something abstract.
Maybe home is the physical place you live in, whether with family or alone.
Maybe home is something between these two, never to be fully understood or defined.
Or maybe in the words of author Warsan Shire “At the end of the day, it isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and have never been before.”
Whether you’re 19, 47, or 62, it’s okay that you don’t have it figured out. We’re all trying to crack the code, unravel the mystery that is life. Some of us will have a harder time than others, tripping along the way and second guessing ourselves on the journey. But whatever or wherever it may be, I hope you find your home.
Chase Encalade is a Sophomore English for Corporate Communications major at Christian Brothers University and a staff writer at the Galleon.
The Galleon is curated and managed by Christian Brothers University, a Memphis-based university founded in the Lasallian tradition (a sect within the Catholic faith). Part of our founding mission is to uphold respect for all persons-regardless of political, religious, or social beliefs. As an institution, we take no stand on political matters; to do so would undermine our commitment to intellectual inquiry and thoughtful response to events taking place in our World by members of the CBU community.