I’ve often heard the phrase, “Home is where you hang your hat.” Usually, it’s uttered by drifters in a film who are struggling to find themselves or by people whose lives are too settled, too stable. What I think every time I hear that is, “There is no way I have that many hats.”
I can pull off wearing hats, because apparently some people can’t and I feel for your lack of access to that aide of the accessory store, but I do not own that many. There’s no way that’s possible. So, either I call places home too often and I do not actually identify with a true home or many of us have a skewed perception of what home really is; maybe both points have merit. I’m leaning towards that third option.
It’s true, that over the past few years I have had many homes; however, not all of them are tangible. There’s the home that I live in with my parents which houses my books, my journals, my miscellaneous electronics like my flip phone that I refuse to part with, and a glorious amount of photographs. It also protects some of the most important people in my life, my mom, my dad and my cat, who, although she is not a person holds a special place in my heart. There’s the variety of homes I cocoon myself in when I write poetry, fiction and other pieces, respectively, most of which are found in my mind.
Schools have also always been home to me. Always. I was that kid who was early to school in the morning during my elementary years because my parents worked early and it was the only feasible time to drop me off. Then when I transferred to my middle school, which doubled as my high school, I was only five minutes away by car, instead of half an hour away like elementary, but I was still there early. I was usually at school at 7:00am if a little earlier or later depending on the morning. When I wasn’t present by 7:30am people usually assumed I was sick or something had happened.
I couldn’t help it. I loved school. In fact, I still do, but university is a whole other chapter so I’ll wait to explore that one. High school was a wonderful time for me – my experience wasn’t perfect, but it taught me a great deal about the world. I went through stages of joy, loss, fun, heartbreak, drama, and stress, among a variety of other emotions. It was a time when I could truly feel broken and whole simultaneously. I would not change a single choice – every mistake and triumph taught me so much.
I enjoyed high school, and despite being told I would never miss it, I did, in a way. I was ready to move on, I knew I was, I had been preparing for university since grade nine – it was my future, but my past is also part of me. It took me awhile I realize that acceptance of what has happened was the only thing that would allow me to have a real future. Without acknowledging the past and the events that have shaped us I feel that our lives become shades of what they could be; their actual potential is not realized.
The actual inspiration for this post was a message I received this past week from a friend from high school. You see, in grade eleven I created a kindness and compassion group that focused on creating a more positive environment in our school and combating the presence of bullying. It was my pet project and my baby – I watched it grow with pride, and leaving it last year was tough.
I handed it off to some very capable people, but from time to time I would wonder how they were doing and how everything was going. One the projects I was most proud of was not even my brainchild but that of the friend who messaged me. At one club meeting we were tossing around ideas about a grad legacy, something positive to mark the school as theirs [I wasn’t a grad at the time] yet something that would not tarnish our school’s reputation (ie: a grad prank).
My friend said, “Why don’t we put their handprints up on the wall?” I thought it was a brilliant idea, but impossible. With a school size of almost 2,000 students and around 300 plus graduates that year it just did not seem feasible. But the idea stuck in our brains and by the time my grad year rolled around next year we had resolved to complete the project.
I won’t say that it went off without a hitch because it was difficult at first to organize almost four hundred students during the last few weeks of school but we did it. It was truly one of the most awe-inspiring events of my life, seeing each
kid young adult place their handprint upon the wall with purpose. Signing their name on the wall, admiring their handiwork (no pun intended) and looking for the first time like they might miss this school, or truly reflect upon the gravity of graduation. Some of those handprints will one day belong to famous politicians, doctors and artists, others will immortalize a child’s parent or someone’s beloved.
It was about more than paint and decorating a blank wall – it was about leaving a legacy of kindness, acceptance and solidarity. Each person gave away a part of themselves with the press of their hand to paint – they left their mark. Some did not want to be a part of it, we were respectful of their wishes but some came by in the end. You can never reach everybody; it’s a fact of life, but we reached so many – it was amazing. It was such a vast undertaking but completely worth every moment of anxiety and doubt.
The reason I bring up this particular project is that my high school just completed their second round of handprints yesterday. They are carrying on our legacy and seeing photos of their handprints brought back memories. I expected an onslaught of nostalgia and a desire to return “back home,” to overwhelm me, yet nothing but fondness overcame me. I am over high school. It’s no longer my first, or secondary refuge, but it will always be home.
That’s what I wanted to address with this post, home is anywhere you damn well please it to be and no one can tell you otherwise. It’s your home. It’s not theirs. It doesn’t matter if you have seven hundred “homes” or one. It doesn’t matter if some of them are imaginary places (one of mine is definitely Hogwarts), figments of your own imagination, a group of people or even attached to an object. Your favourite hockey skates could make every rink feel like home or your poster of Joss Whedon could be just the thing to make your dorm room feel like it’s yours. It’s all about perspective and the desire to accept that it’s okay for us to trust in a place or feeling and invest in that attachment.
Home is where the heart is, now that’s a sentiment I agree with more, but I maintain that even if your heart is no longer formally connected with someone or somewhere it was once, so it can still be a home.
Home is where you put up your feet on the table because you’re comfortable and it’s also where you take them down because you want to be respectful. It’s where you dress up or lounge around. It’s where you work, play, laugh and cry. Home is whatever and wherever you want it to be – so you never have to leave home, you’re just leaving a home for another one. Home is the Heart Of My[Your] Entity and it belongs to you, never forget that, home is what YOU make of it. Acknowledge your home – love it or leave, just realize that it’s present and that it’s completely yours.
*Taken on the Brooklyn Bridge in NYC during my grad trip.