Throwback Thursday: What is home?

Originally posted February 28, 2012

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

~ Maya Angelou

For my entire life…I’ve moved from one house to another to another. I’ve had many different bedrooms, schools, groups of friends. Each time, I have had to adjust to a new “home”.

Unfortunately though, I’ve never felt safe at my house, my school, or with whatever group of friends I have had at a certain time.

I have never had a true home.

You may ask, “What? How could you have never had a home?”

Well, to me, a home is a safe haven. It is a place where I can go escape from the troubles of my world and just be myself. It is a place where I know that I am loved unconditionally and I will never be rejected.

To me, a home is consistent. There is a sense of continuity – a place that I am comfortable enough to put down roots without the fear that everything will be torn out from underneath me. It is not a place where I don’t know what to expect from day to day. I have never felt safe enough to settle and put down roots.

There is a sense of privacy and boundaries are respected, but there is also a supportive environment that enables a person to grow into the best person that they can be. There is balance somewhere between having to be independent and take care of myself and being smothered and overprotected.

A home should be a place where kids are allowed to be kids. They shouldn’t have to take on adult responsibilities in elementary school. Age appropriate expectations are so important.

I have lived my entire life in fear – of my parents, of my peers, of lack, of myself.

Throughout my life, I’ve come up with different ways to keep myself safe and meet my need for security. The most consistent method that I have used is my eating disorder.

My eating disorder has been there for me to fall back on in times where everything seems uncertain. It is the perfect place to retreat into when I don’t feel safe. Through my eating disorder, I was essentially able to say that I don’t have needs, so I wasn’t disappointed when they didn’t get met. At the most extreme times of the eating disorder, I didn’t feel anything. I couldn’t think about anything other than food, and that was good. My life was crumbling around me and I was being abused and taken advantage of, but I was okay because I had my eating disorder. Thinking about it now, it’s like the eating disorder became my protective shell…it became my home, and it stayed that way for many years.

The only other place that I felt safe was at Mercy. I allowed myself to come out of my protective shell and put myself out there. I still feel at home whenever I walk through the doors of Mercy Ministries. At Mercy, I fit. I belonged there. All my needs were met. I had support, and I created a family. Sometimes I get glimpses of “home” when I talk to some of the girls I was there with, specifically my friend Katherine. We may not be related by blood, but there is no doubt that we are sisters.

Anyways, now that I am going to treatment and the eating disorder isn’t functioning in the role that it used to function in, I feel lost. I feel more lonely than ever, and this time, I don’t know what to do about it. I kind of want to move – to recreate Alexis yet again…because that’s what I know how to do.

Every time I have moved, I have gone into it hoping that I finally find a place to call home, but after all those unsuccessful attempts, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not location that determines a home.

I have to find a place within myself where I am satisfied with myself in order to be at a place where I can maintain a “home” environment. I need to surround myself with the right kind of people.

It’s not the location that matters.

It’s me.

The concept of home still holds so much power for me.

When I wrote that post, I was really struggling to find where I belonged. I was commuting to college in Toronto, living at home, searching for schools to transfer to in the States, and still, struggling intensly with the eating disorder. I wanted to run away or to disappear inside myself because I couldn’t figure out where on earth I was supposed to be.

Now? I’ve created a home for myself in Massachusetts. It may not be my forever home, but it is for now. I’ve put down roots. I’ve invested in people, and they’ve invested in me. I’m learning to have healthy boundaries with the people that I love, that has only served to strengthen the relationships that we’ve developed over the last year and a half. Being at a Christian college with res life guidelines and expectations from the college provide me with structure and expectations, but I’m still treated like a grown up. I still go off campus and I do my own thing. My friends have seen me at my lowest, and they’ve loved me through it. They’ve stood by me when they were absolutely terrified, and they walked with me as I grew into a person who could stand on my own two feet.

There’s a familiar rhythm to life when I’m home in Massachusetts. Life is filled with unexpected obstacles and extraordinary victories, and I don’t always feel happy or comfortable. I don’t ever want to feel completely comfortable anywhere that I go, because that doesn’t foster continual growth.

I was right about one thing though. I did have to go through a process of giving myself permission to just be where I was before I began to feel like I belonged.

Home is me, absolutely, but it’s so much more than that.


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