I’ve been thinking a lot of the concept of home ever since I’ve been living abroad for three months now. What is home? Is it defined by family? By friends (our chosen family)? By our obligations, in my case, academics, or by wherever we have accumulated the most number of experiences in?
Home is conventionally thought of as a house, a physical space, with several rooms, but I’ve realized that home can also be conceptual, or territorial (bigger than a house). I’ve been moving from home to home since high school graduation, with my home taking the shapes of rooms across campus throughout the years, some shared, some not shared, with home also representing the town of Ithaca/New York state, my parents’ home in Southern California by the Mexican food joints, their house in Michoacan, Mexico, my own apartment in San Cristobal de las Casas in southern Mexico, and finally, to now, my room in Paris. I realize that my mobility is a privilege.
I’ve come to conclude that my notion of home is plural, but most importantly, that I am home, and must continue to see myself as such. How so? In that I am an accumulation of what I’ve lived, that the spicy sauce recipe handed down to my mom by her ancestors, the indigenous textiles from Chiapas, and the fresh bread from Parisian boulangeries are all home. They’ve all evoked emotions of belonging. All of the moments lived elsewhere, the ephemeral houses I’ve inhabited, are all home. Home is not static; it is ever evolving. As a result, home is also inherently epistemological, a way of knowing within itself.
More pragmatically, home makes me think of immigration, of migrants who have no alternative but to search for home elsewhere, of people who literally dissolve the meaning of fixedness and who challenge the norms of homogeneity. Immigrants in Europe, and in the world, are forced to build a home for themselves in environments where they are not desired because of their otherness. Immigrant communities are powerful in extending the meaning, and the manifestation, of house and home, often most open to receiving difference than those from that particular territory.
Thinking of leaving Paris in the next weeks makes me feel nostalgic already, but I realize that the moments spent in this particular place will be added to a growing list of homes, and that when I return in the future, I will be coming back to a place I once grew used to.