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Homesick This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

I have two residences: a house and a college dorm. In both these places I have a bed, a shower, and food. Every night when I go to sleep I don't have to worry that my things will be stolen or wonder where I will sleep the next night. I have a place to live – two of them in fact. Yet I still feel homeless at times.

Home isn't a physical structure like a house or an apartment, nor is it a region or country. Actually, home isn't a physical entity at all. After moving three times in a year and half, I've learned that home is more than a physical dwelling; it's a mental and emotional state. A state in which one feels safe and accepted, comforted and in control. We are at home when we're able to let our true identity show without fear of judgment.

Up until two months ago, I'd always had a home. In the past when I walked through the door of my house after school, my black lab would pin me against the wall and lovingly lick me until I managed to escape. My mom would shout “hey” over the gunfire echoing from my brother's Xbox as I grabbed an apple and sat down to tell her about my day.

I was always at home when I was among my family. However, with college, home has disappeared. Now I'm occasionally greeted with a quick hello from my roommate. Rather than try to have a conversation, I just throw my stuff down, put my iPod in, and take out my homework. There is no sense of comfort or belonging, just a feeling of tolerance as we count down the days 'til summer. I live here, but this is not my home. My family home has changed too. I lie on my bed, study in my room, but I'm still out of place.

Though I feel homeless, I'm fortunate to have a place to live. Many individuals around the world have to live in a park, behind a dumpster, or under a bridge. Though they may not have a house, they are not necessarily without a home. Sean Kidd and Josh Evan's survey, encompassing 208 “homeless” individuals from Toronto and New York City, examined the varying perceptions of home. These individuals, both young and old, believed that having a home differed from having a fixed residence. Instead many perceived home as “the environment where you can let your hair down and let all those defenses drop.” Though all the individuals in this study were “houseless,” not all were homeless. Some found safety, comfort, control, and a sense of belonging in the streets of Toronto and New York City.

Feelings of security, acceptance, comfort, and control aren't the only aspects of life that create a sense of home. “Cultural home,” a term introduced in Hart Mechthild and Miriam Ben-Yoseph's article “Introduction: Shifting Meanings of Home,” refers to the connotations of home across populations and conveys the idea of individuals feeling at home with respect to food, music, and cultural traditions. Individuals across the globe rely on their cultures to establish the actions with which they feel at home. Though the yearning to feel at home is a universal human trait, the attainment of the sense of home depends on feeling accepted, secure, and comforted as well as fulfilling cultural traditions, norms, and values.

Growing up, I always believed that being with family or walking into my house automatically meant I was home. I never imagined that the day would come when I'd feel homeless. I lived in four houses growing up and never felt without a home, so the thought of college being any different never occurred to me. Though I have a place to sleep, shower, and eat at college, I still feel out of place.

After settling in and discovering my longing for home, I thought perhaps not having my family and the support they constantly gave, or maybe the lack of personal space, was the cause of my homesickness. But when I return to my family's house, I don't feel at home there either. Rather, I drift between my dorm and my house, hoping to find the feeling of home somewhere. Eventually I will find the comfort and acceptance I seek and once more feel at home. Until then, I remain a drifter, searching for that one person, that one environment, where I'll be able to anchor myself and let my defenses drop.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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