What is Home?

I’ve never really stayed in one house for a long time. It partially comes with the territory of coming from a divorced family, not only the loads of back and forth between Mom’s and Dad’s, but also when one parent moves, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other parent won’t move in the same time frame. By that I mean, separately parents may not move a lot, but when you combine it for the kids… it stacks up.

Looking to my mom, who coincidentally has moved a lot, with her I grew up in seven different houses, and with my dad I grew up in three different houses. Then when they were married, there is one house in my active memory. So we’re looking at eleven different houses I lived in from the time I was born until I graduated college. Speaking of college, you could even increase the places I’ve lived since I lived in the dorms throughout that time, and then my senior year a friend and I got an apartment off campus. I also did a semester in France which was a whole other type of living situation!

After reflecting on my adolescence, and now looking towards my adulthood – almost the minute I graduated college, I shipped up to NYC for an internship that turned permanent. Upon first moving to the city, I lived in a small sublet in Harlem and my room was literally the size of a twin size mattress. Two months later, my sublet was up and I moved to Chinatown for a little over a year and that was an experience! After that downtown escapade, I booked it back uptown to Spanish Harlem for a little over a year.

All sounds complicated and all over the place, right? Am I done yet? Am I getting to the whole purpose of this overshare yet?

Thanks to Miss Rona, things only get more complicated.

My lease was up in Spanish Harlem July 31st and the friend I planned to live with, Zoe, couldn’t move until October. So we were faced with two options:

  1. We find a place for August 1st and sublet until Zoe can move in.
  2. I go home – I’m working from home anyway, so why not spend some time at home, save some money, and move back to the city in the fall?

Two was the obvious option, but the not so obvious is the thing I had to ask myself – “Where is home?”

My nomadic mom is currently posted up in Pittsburgh, which isn’t too far from my uncle and papa along with many other family members. My dad is where he’s always been, in Kentucky, along with many family members. But then I have my nana and aunt and nearly all of my friends who are tucked away in Indiana.

So, again, where is home? Where do I go?

I essentially did what I always do, and that was split up my time and touch ground everywhere. Which definitely isn’t COVID Kosher, but I was essentially homeless, so sue me.

I did some time with all of my family and some friends – sprinkling my sass and two-cents along the way, lending an ear to those who needed it, and offering support when the situation called for it. It was nice to be “home” for a little while. But honestly, I couldn’t help but be hyper-focused on the term, “home“… what is it? Where is it? Do I have one, do I have many, or do I not have one at all?

My mom always says, “Home is where your mom is.”

But I don’t think home is that simple, or maybe it is.

I think home is a feeling. It’s something that comes natural, but it’s also something that can be manifested. For instance, both my grandparents houses always feel like home, the Catholic church I grew up in feels like home… but everywhere I’ve ever had my own room I’ve seamlessly created a notable “cozy-homey vibe” that gets riddled with compliments on how comfy it is.

It’s as if I’ve always understood that with a few adjustments, you can make anywhere feel like home. I have some things I always do, nearly as a reflex, whenever I settle in somewhere in order to make that place more comfortable – to make it mine.

1. Your bed is a sanctuary, treat it as such.

Make sure you have a bedspread that you like to look at, and honestly – the more pillows the better. Even if you only use one pillow to sleep – during the day have your bed coated in pillows. Those decorative sacks of fluff and feathers are so inviting, there’s no such thing as too much, I promise.

Once you like your bed – make it every single day. There was a time not too long ago where I didn’t make my bed everyday; I found I didn’t have time, what’s it matter, etc… I was full of excuses. But what was funny were the days that I didn’t make my bed in the mornings, I would almost instantly make it the minute I got home – because there’s nothing better than slipping into a freshly made bed.

Just respect yourself enough to make your bed in the mornings – respect the evening version of you who just spent a hard day at work and deserves a freshly made bed.

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2. You look at each wall more than you think, hang things that bring you joy and peace.

Think of every wall in your space as a mood board.

Fill each wall with pieces of art, photos, or shelves of knickknacks that evoke positive emotions. This is where you can put plants, real or fake, to encourage growth in your space and to feel grounded and connected with the earth. Fill your walls with whatever brings you peace and happiness.

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3. If it smells great, you’ll feel great.

I adore candles. I love them not only for the smell, but I enjoy even the simple flame. The sense of warmth I feel when I see the lit candle and then the scents that beginning coating the room, it brings so much instant peace. I love fall scents the most, like vanilla and hazelnut, but sometimes these scents don’t translate well in the summer. I found that my safe-ground is finding earthy candles that smell of amber and oud.

Go find your scent – be it floral, fruity, earthy, or fresh… find it and do what you gotta do to maintain that smell in your room. Be it candles, incense, oil diffusers, or wax warmers – just give your room a scent that you associate with comfort.

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I’ll be honest, sometimes doing all of the above isn’t enough. You can go the whole nine yards on your space and still feel like a fish in the wrong bowl. Like you’re a pretty fish in a decked out aquarium, but you kind of miss your old bowl for some reason.

AKA -> homesickness.

All I’ve gotta say to that is to think long and hard on what you’re homesick for, what’s missing. Would you be happier back where you were? Or do you find you’re actually missing specific moments and feelings expressed in the old space?

I find that most of the time, my homesickness is for a time and not a place.

Once I realized this, it clicked that going home won’t fix anything, it won’t fix my homesickness. The only type of “going back” that will erase my homesickness is “going back in time” but that’s not possible, obviously. This type of homesickness can really only be healed by some intense self-reflection, maybe even some therapy, in order to dig up what the real root of the problem is and to truly understand what you’re missing. In realizing this, in understanding what it is exactly that you’re homesick for, you can then move forward and adjust what you must in order to find that mental balance and manifest your “home vibe”.

Ultimately, it’s important to understand that you are deserving of feeling at home wherever you’re living.

Emily’s Roommate Guide

In all my 25 years of life, I’ve never had my own apartment (excluding my brief semester abroad, but let’s be real I was hardly in that little dorm.) I’ve always had one or multiple roommates; and there’s not one place I’ve lived where I don’t have a crazy story to share – both good crazy and bad crazy. Just to name a few, I’ve had roommates hide under the bed for days at a time, I’ve had roommates accuse the entire apartment of tackling their 5-gallon jar of pickles (gag), I’ve had roommates with no sense of pride in the space we both call home, and I’ve had roommates where we don’t even remotely speak the same language.

Each and every one of my living situations could not only have their own blog post, but I could write a whole series of books, accurately titled: “Emily’s Series of Unfortunate Roommates:The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

But this post isn’t a tell-all on past roommates – sorry to disappoint you, you gossip ready scoundrels. Instead, I’m roaming the higher ground here. I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned through these good and bad situations, and most importantly: questions you should ask yourself when in the market for roommate.

Blanket Question: What is important to you?

This may seem like an obvious question, but clearly not since at 25 – 7 years into the roommate game – I’ve only just learned how to properly answer this when on a roommate search. Let’s breakdown what could be important to you, you just don’t realize it yet:

  • Which spaces always have to be tidy or you’ll have an aneurysm?
    • Even if you think you’re pretty chill, not too much of a neat freak, I’m sure there’s actually one or two things that get under your skin. For me, I’ve realized I need the toilet to always be pearly white, uncluttered kitchen counters, and absolutely nothing permanently (or even semi-permanently) planted on the stove – excluding a kettle – I also cannot cope with dishes overflowing the sink for more than like 3-4 days. So if you get roped in with someone who ends up being more on the messy side, voice the spaces that matter most to you.
  • How do you feel about entertaining guests?
    • Granted, in Covid-Culture, this question is answered way differently now then it would be if all was right in the world – or for some of you, maybe not! Either way, it’s important to sort if you’re content with guests frequently coming and going, staying for short or long periods of time. Especially if you live in a major city, it’s common for friends and family to want to come visit often and for longer than just a weekend. So figure out how you feel about this, if you’re content with strangers coming and going – potentially running up utility bills during their stay πŸ˜‰
  • Speaking of utility bills, how do you feel if it seems your roommate may be causing spikes in bills?
    • If I’m being honest, I never even realized that this was a thing until very recently. In my books, you’re in a contract with your roommates to go half on everything. If there’s a spike in the bill, it sucks but that’s just it – it sucks. Even if the other person may have caused it, you couldn’t possibly confirm that, so you have to buck up and pay your half and everyone aim together to be more conscientious for the next bill cycle. Trying to pin a spike in a bill on someone is a slippery slope, because what about the months you had several guests staying for a week or two at a time? Or how about there’s a month where you’re using the washer and dryer more? Do you see what I’m getting at? It opens a door that you probably don’t want to open. But either way… if this is your little psycho tick… sort it out now before trying to screw someone over. Have fun with that future conversation! Side note, if you don’t bring this up and try to con a roommate into paying more of a bill – shame on you.
  • Your sleep schedule?
    • Most of the time, you know if this is important to you – so voice it! Make it known that you’re a night owl, or make it known you go to bed at 8, grandma πŸ˜‰

Blanket Question: What are you looking for in a roommate?

This is not just finding a cool person to live with, nor the same as simply finding a friend. While the above questions definitely facilitate sorting this question out, below is a breakdown of how to sort out the type of person you’re looking for:

  • Do you want someone with the same daily schedule as you?
    • Having the same schedule as someone is great, in theory. It opens doors to be able to hang out together after work and sleep schedules should be fairly similar. But also, it means they are always home the same time you are. For me, I’m not into that. I need alone time, I need the space to myself, and I hate fighting over the freaking bathroom. I’ve realized my ideal roommate’s schedule is someone who wakes up at the ass-crack of dawn and leaves the apartment before I wake up. Then I get to have a quiet morning to myself and get in the right head space for the day.
  • Are you looking to become best friends with your roommate?
    • This is fine! Moving to a new city and seeking to befriend whoever you live with is a smart way to get established and such an easy way to make friends. So think about what characteristics you like in a friend, but also think about how that translates into a roommate. Party people are fun, but do you want a party apartment? Bubbly, outgoing people are great, but are you someone who needs alone time to recharge? Just make sure you understand what you’re getting into!
  • What’s the ideal vibe?
    • It’s super important to me that my apartment is cozy, decorated, and smells heavenly with candles frequently lit. Maybe you’re wondering why this didn’t go in the first blanket question, but this is totally a personality thing. I’ve had roommates who just emit comfort from their very being and it translates into the apartment setup, I also have had roommates who see the apartment as just the place they sleep and aren’t into the whole decorating thing, or they have a minimalist vibe and aren’t into knickknacks and decorations. So while it’s important to understand your vibe, it’s equally important to sort out your roommates vibe – then you can create a conducive atmosphere that makes your space more than just an apartment, it makes it a home.

Blanket Statement: Know your boundaries.

If you understand what your boundaries are, what you are comfortable with and what you’re not, the roommate search will be more fruitful. If you’re not that clean, there’s no point in lying about it just to get the dream apartment with someone. If you need alone time, voice that and most people will respect it.

One thing I casually began doing to better understand what gets under my skin, is starting a “When People…” note on my iPhone. Whenever someone does something that rubs me the wrong way, even slightly, I write it down – just the action, not the person’s name, this isn’t a list of grudges! It has things like “When people interrupt others when they’re speaking,” which equates to the fact that basic manners are incredibly important to me, and another one is “When people flake on responsibilities,” and that one I don’t think I need to explain πŸ˜‰

Creating a simple list of pet peeves is a great way to understand not only what you don’t like, but also what you do. Ultimately, it’s important to know yourself in order to know what you need from others so that you can flourish.

DISCLAIMER: While I hope this guide helps you, I think shit roommates are major character building experiences πŸ˜‰

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PS: the featured photo is that of me and one of my best friends that’s survived many roommate horrors with me ❀