I come from a very small sugar estate in the low veld of Zimbabwe called Triangle. I called Triangle home for 18 years of my life. I never really thought about what home meant to me until I left Triangle, three years ago. Home before I left was my bedroom, with my desktop computer and my many books lined up along my wall. It was my small little white table that was supposed to be used by a six year-old in their grade one class, but I used it every day when I woke up at 4am to study.
It was the shower I used to sing in so loudly every morning and evening after school. The dining room table my father and I shared many a conversation about the next door neighbors, work, school and my newest relationship. Home was my favorite brown couch where I would watch “Penguins of Madagascar”, Trace, “Scandal” and Al Jazeera as I ate sadza. Home was a solid house that held all I was, all the memories of who I had been, and where I had been.
Three years later, there is no small white table or the black computer sitting on my brown desk. The brown couch is still there in Triangle but it no longer is mine. The shower is still there but I no longer sing twice a day like I used to. The white house at the end of the road is still there but now every time someone asks me where I am going, I say I am going to Triangle to visit my father. I do not say I am going home.
When I realized this difference I asked myself why? Why was I hesitant to call Triangle home, what had changed or caused this difference? When I recently went back to Triangle, I finally knew what had changed. Me. The books lining my bedroom wall no longer interested me as they did before. The conversations about the next door neighbors were now difficult for me to laugh about and enjoy because we had new neighbors I did not know. Every action I did was now being matched against the new habits, memories, company I had found while away and every single time my old habits, actions and company just did not feel as fun, as welcoming, as grounding, as accepting and as familiar. They did not feel like home.
But now as I transition into another chapter of my life, I begin to ask myself if it is okay to feel that there is not a singular place I can call home. There are three places I know I can always go to and I will be accepted with no questions asked and no rent money expected. They all are my shelter, but not my home. My home is no longer the white house at the end of the road. My home is now the place, the people, the memories that bring me the most comfort and peace. Home for me has become something I find inside myself and not something external I hold on to.
This has not been an easy acceptance because we are generally not raised to be like that. A lot of people I meet say home is the place they grew up, where their parents and sometimes grandparents are. A place where they go to every Christmas and Easter break. For many people home is a singular entity. A place.
However, there are many people like me who find home in many things and people but mostly themselves. Such people often feel as if they do not fit in, or as if they are missing an integral part of what makes us human beings. The idea of having a base that anchors us, roots that ground us no matter how further afield we may go. But I after a long lugubrious process of self- to-self conversation have come to realize that a house and a home are two different things.
A house does not always foster a home. And it is okay to have these two be mutually exclusive. As a friend said, it is easier to move around “if you have a mobile home in your heart.” My home is in my heart and all the people who have loved me, laughed with me, cried with me, danced with me, and loved with me, make up my home which I carry wherever I go. I know a time will come where my home in my heart will begin to manifest itself externally, but until then home is where my heart is.