Home Is Where the Heart Is | Teen Ink

Home Is Where the Heart Is

November 29, 2022
By zaynabkhaled BRONZE, Glendale, Arizona
zaynabkhaled BRONZE, Glendale, Arizona
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

For as long as I could remember, home is where my heart is. I never expected this saying to stick with me throughout my life, but it has become my truth. There are places and people that I’ve known for a long time that still feel unfamiliar. Sometimes friendships can make you feel more at home than where you live. 

The friendships I made in high school kept me going when I needed a friend to lean on. These friends supported me through many hard times and vice versa. However, I missed them during quarantine. I would often stay in my room to do homework and scroll on my phone. The only times I left the house were for groceries and the occasional bike ride. Sadly, too many of us have heard our parents say, “Someone is finally out of their cave!” once we step foot outside our rooms.

I didn’t realize that my parents were keeping count of how long I spent in my room, but they didn’t understand that my phone connected me to the people I felt safe with. For example, my oldest sister is someone I can go to for anything. If I need a laugh or I feel a little homesick, I call her, and I immediately feel better. Unfortunately, she lives in Georgia, and I can’t get in my car and see her. When I’m on the phone with her, we skip the “How’s the weather?” and “Long time no see!” and jump right back where we left off. After a five-hour phone call that feels like 45 minutes, I finally feel at peace andconnected to the little girl who stayed up late reading scary stories with her big sister. Nothing will compare to us updating each other on our lives, laughing over random pictures, and sharing old funny memories. It doesn’t matter where we are or how far she is; she will always feel more like home to me than anywhere else.

It’s strange how you can be in a room you’ve known your whole life but still feel out of place. It should feel like home, but you can’t settle in. I visited my high school many times before I became a student there. My older siblings band concerts and banquets were held there, and Friday night football games were a sacred tradition for all ages. This place should have felt like home; instead, I felt like an alien. Roaming the fluorescent-lit halls and having an existential crisis became my new morning routine. It wasn’t until I met the people who would become my best friends that I began to relax and enjoy high school. Friday night football traditions brought back the familiar sound of the marching band playing our fight song. Smearing black paint under my eyes and glitter on my face gave me more confidence than it should have. We would sing along to our chant “Go! Fight! Win!” and scream every time we won a touchdown until our voices went hoarse. Even though my fingers were frozen, my nose was running, and I could barely understand the game, I had the best time of my life. I had been going to these games for years, but being there with my friends made it special. It had little to do with my interest in football and everything to do with the people who made me feel at home again. 

When my best friends and I took our senior trip to California together, I still felt at home. It was my first time visiting California, but being with the people I love, and consider home, made this new place feel like my living room. We spent our last day at Newport Beach with our towels on the sand. Reading my book with children laughing and waves crashing felt like true bliss. The sun warming my back lulled me to sleep, but water droplets quickly woke me up. Two of my friends had just returned from the ocean and asked the rest of our group to join them. If the freezing water, scary waves, and the four people we just witnessed get knocked down by the water scared us, it didn't show. Instead, we braced ourselves and charged straight in. The water decided to spit us right back out, plainly rejecting us. It kicked our feet and pulled us underwater, aimlessly spinning around. When I resurfaced, my heart unclenched and I started laughing. Knowing we survived a scary moment together and came out grinning gave me enough serotonin for the ride home. If I had done this alone, I would have been terrified, but doing it with my best friends gave me the courage and strength I needed to keep going. 

Home is often described to others as a house or the place where your family lives. It is the place you go when you need rest. And that may be true for others, but my house is not my home. Like many people, I can’t come home to my house and relax all the time because of my parents. My love for them runs deep, but their arguing and tense dinner conversations always make me uneasy. However, I know I can go to my friends to feel lighter after an exhausting week. Last year during finals, my friends and I got together to make gingerbread houses. We bought a kit from Target, burned a fall-scented candle, and got to work. It quickly became a competition of who could make the most beautiful house. My fingers were covered in icing, and my house had fallen apart about three times, but I hadn't laughed harder in that whole week. Finals were crushing our spirits, but messing around not taking ourselves too seriously felt like a recharge. Spending time with my friends allowed me to relax and let go more than taking a nap in my house. I didn't have this emotional connection with my bedroom or living room but rather with the people I cared deeply about.

Home can be considered a place to most people, but for me, it’s always been the people that define home. A physical house can have four walls and a family living inside, but it might not offer the connections needed to make it a home. My home is where I feel the most loved. No matter where I am.

The author's comments:

Hi! My name is Zaynab Khaled and I am a freshman at Arizona State University. 

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