I haven’t had a home in a very long time.
In fact, since coming out of the closet, home has been primarily a transportable entity (a variety of cars, trains, buses, and airplanes) that know the thousands of miles between where I grew up and where I am today. In the past fifteen years, I have moved well over a dozen times, either out of need to refresh a situation with my partner, seeking a second (or third, or fourth) chance at reinventing myself, or to simply escape the things in my past I was not able to cope with.
I moved a lot with Nathaniel. Whenever we were getting stir-crazed, or simply couldn’t stand the space we were in, we moved. We were both very capable of attempting a restart of our relationship as it related to location. A new place meant a new attempt at bridging the gaps between us, or so we thought. Each year, signing the lease renewal was a chore. Each year, he would come up with a list of things that he was unhappy with about our home. In order to please him, I simply let him decide whether or not we were going to move again or not. It was easier on me, but not without a cost. Not without a lot of personal loss.
In fact, each time we moved, a piece of me was left behind. Those tiny translucent roots that had just begun to sprout, had just begun to sink into the ground beneath me, were suddenly and abruptly torn up and destroyed, repeatedly. Over and over and over. Each time, scar tissue formed. Each time we had to pack and repack and filter and squabble over what was to be kept and what was to be scrapped, another scab formed over a tear in me. The process of letting go, and falling into a place for a while, felt so disturbingly foreign to me. I was terrified of doing it, terrified of becoming stuck, of becoming stagnant. I didn’t know how to live in a place. I didn’t know how to become entwined in the fabric of a location. All I knew is motion.
The end result of this constant flux meant that I lost the centered, grounded idea of home that I had, though paradoxically, I constantly felt homesick. I’ve had to relearn how to create this space in my own life. I’ve always been told, been forced, to throw things away, to live as a man who can steal away in his car at a moment’s notice. For over fifteen years, this has been my life. Though I think I’ve found a place of permanence, things I have been dragging around with me remain in the battered boxes I put them in years ago. I don’t own any bookshelves. I don’t buy things I can’t quickly pack and chuck in the back of a battered old car or high-mileage U-Haul.
What is ‘home’ for me? I think it starts with a safe space to leave my sword and shield at the door. It’s a space that contains the me who most people, if asked, don’t really know. Some do, and it’s the company of those people that also add to the feeling of being tied to a place, anchored.
Home has become a place where my identity is not called into judgement or question. This extends well beyond the fact I’m a gay man. It means I am also a person who has individualized and specific needs that a place, a geography, a nexus of social interactions need to meet. For me, it means I feel safe. I need to feel as though I can both wrap myself up in the cloak of “passing” in the straight world, but on occasion, have the space and place to shed that protective garment and let loose the man I am beneath it. I can express myself in any way that feels right and authentic in the moment. I can reflect myself in my fashion, the way I walk, the people I congregate with, and not worry about being judged, jumped, or harmed in any way.
What I have learned, as I’ve reached a destination where I can finally end the running, is that home is the place where I feel the courage to turn and comprehend those skeletons that I’ve been dragging around with me over the years. In my life, this means processing loss, grief, anger, and the darker parts that have never sat well with me. Home is that castle, where the walls are strong, and where I can finally take in that deep, long breath only to exhale and ground myself.
Home is more than a geographical location. It’s more than familiar skies, weather patterns, and well-trod paths along the riverbanks of my childhood. It’s where I feel the safest. It’s where I can put aside my armor and fully actualize the me that I have been, am being, and will become.
It is also a place that I am invested in. I can make the choice to remain detached, and disconnected, or I can really start taking part in the things that define the community I find myself among. I can claim it as mine. Making that leap, that promise, that commitment to a certain and specific set of geographical coordinates, however, can be daunting. For a person who has always had his roots ripped out at the slightest thought of settling, I’m still leery. I’m still afraid that I might engage more of myself in a place only to have it become a citadel of cold and isolation. Some towns I have lived in, especially when the nights are long and the air is frosty, have made me feel claustrophobic, or as if I was caught in a rift in time and space. Close-in, tight, drawn.
I have recently moved, and am at a place that I want to start my life over in. I want to settle here. I want to fit in, to make a home for myself. I want to belong here. Right now, I feel right in this place, but I dare not rely too heavy on the pin pressed into the map. Rather, it’s this place as felt from inside. Grounded, centered, balanced. This is a better understanding of home, for me.