It is early morning. Overcast sky, quiet roads. We are on a short road trip to the nearby hills, to see an old Chinese temple that Aunty likes. U2’s City of Blinding Lights plays quietly in the background. The road has many hairpin turns. Uncle takes them quickly but steadily. At times, there is conversation. But for the most part, the car is silent. Everyone is lost in their own versions of the moment. I stare out of the window and doze with my eyes half-open. There is a strange feeling that is growing inside of me; first, a small bud of peace, and then, a blooming flower, beautific and magnificent.
It takes me some time to recognise it.
It is the feeling of home.
In my final year of University, I decided that I had had enough of sharing a place with others. I moved out of my four bed-room flat which I rented with once-friends and moved into a shiny new dormitory that was much nearer to campus. I had my own room, slightly bigger than a shoe cupboard, where I could just about fit a bed, a tiny table and a shelf that served as a wardrobe.
There was not much to be said about this room, but oh, the windows. Floor to ceiling, clear glass, East-facing, from which you could see the whole of my little city spread out. This meant that every morning, I would wake up to cheeky rays of sunlight, unforgiving, entering my space and coaxing me to sit up, wake up, get going.
Right by my bed, I had a ledge that was big enough for me to perch on if I curled myself up into a little ball, all of me tucked in tightly. On this ledge I placed my books, a candle and fresh flowers, which I would religiously buy from the market every few days.
There is a lot to be said about that year of my life. A story of healing and relearning. Of unravelling and slowly being put back together by the achingly gentle hands of friends and family. Of long walks and longer nights.
But the one thing that I remember most clearly of that monumental year is a specific feeling. That which I would get every morning as I sat on my window ledge with my morning cup of tea and my fresh flowers by my side, watching the spectacular light show that unfolded across the sky. A deep, quiet joy; a contentment of being one with the self and with the space I was occupying in that single moment.
Over the years I have gotten better at recognising it, this sense, which some might call, of belonging.
I once tweeted, very self-righteously, that people should never be made into homes (I may be paraphrasing but this was the essence of my thought). I had spent too much of my life pouring myself into another, and I had been left an empty, unmoored vessel.
My young, naive mind felt that it had had an epiphany.
My older self now understands that it was the loud cry of the recently homeless and the very hurt.
Almost a decade later, I am not sure what to think of people, or homes. I am not sure whether that safety will ever be guaranteed in the external, be it a home or an individual.
But what I am starting to understand a little better is this – that home is a state of being, a state of the heart and mind. That it comes softly when you least expect it – during long car rides, while watching a sunrise, when you catch your lover’s eye and smile, in the middle of reading a book, when you’ve just woken up from a nap and the afternoon light catches in your gossamer curtains.
It comes softly, and more frequently, when you love and are loved in return. It stays for longer when you are willing to share your time and heart space with another.
It is a comforting development.
So ask me this question again in another ten years. I do believe I might have a better answer.