Some people say fear is learned but that’s bullshit. You’re born with it. It’s in your blood, it’s thick in mine. That fear comes from the unknown; we cling to what we know, which isn’t much at first. We know our mothers—that’s enough in the beginning. We know our mother’s embrace, her smile—with those, she introduces us to the world that she knows, which is far larger than the one she was born into. She, like you, only knew her mother’s smile, her embrace, her security.
When you’re born, though, it’s your mother’s turn to show you everything she knows. It’s with her warm smile that she shows us the world. We use that—her positivity, her strength, her embrace—as a fuel for our discovery, bastion against the unknown, and balm for our pain.
Eventually, though, you begin to realize that your mother isn’t a god and that there are things out of her control and knowledge. “You’ll be okay,” was once received with the same certainty as gravity, but then you begin to question.
The fear that you were born with begins to make itself more forcefully known. You question the world around you, you question people’s motives. You question everything, even the foundation of your life so far: your mother.
Questions plague your mind: where to go and what to be and what to do. Your peers are grappling with the same confusion, so you’re all jockeying for some sense of certainty. This leads to false starts and frustration, a variety of releases and mental vacations. But there’s living to be done, so you and I continue on—haphazardly, but with resolve.
We move out of our parents’ place—our homes since before we could think—to make our own homes, our own sanctuaries. For this, some of us travel far. I have friends living in Thailand, the UK, Germany, South Africa. One who went to Japan on a whim. What they seek—what we all seek in our frightened way—is to recognize ourselves in the distant and unknown.
We want to make the world smaller. We want to dot the globe with pockets of familiarity. Some people don’t realize this, some simply don’t want it. They’re content with their town, their city, their state, their coast—it’s familiar to them. It’s their world. “This is my home,” they say, but homes are familiar places where we feel comfortable, so it can be almost anywhere.
But what makes a home? Why do some places feel more familiar and comfortable than others? People, of course. You can be in a strange, unfamiliar, dilapidated hostel, but with other travelers of kindred spirit, you can find it to be cozy. You can feel at home.
People that make random places feel like that—whether they’re strangers, lovers, or good friends—can move far away, but they’re still with you, aren’t they? When you go to visit them all those miles away—in a city so foreign from yours—do their places not feel a little warm and comfortable? Doesn’t your bond with them extend to their little apartment? When you go out with them in that foreign city, don’t you return to their apartment relieved, excited just to get cozy?
Home has nothing to do with where you are; it’s who you’re with.
Building homes is about building relationships. That’s what we want when we go out into the world as young adults: security and familiarity mixed with discovery. While some material things demand priority (a bed with a ceiling over it, food to put in your stomach), we must never forget that people can be homes, too.