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There’s no place like “home”

Last week we flew “home” to Sydney for a short visit – followed a few days later by flying back “home” to Melbourne.

I know, I’m confused too. I’ve been wondering where is home nowadays? And what does home even mean to me anymore?

Visiting Sydney

It was a wonderful and exciting feeling being in Sydney with familiarity and family all around us. Driving back from the airport I drank in the familiar sights and sounds of my place, my city. I was home and excited about it. I even took a photo of my favourite shopping centre.

I expected everything to be the same so I could bask in being home – only in many subtle ways it wasn’t the same as all.

As we drove past our old house I had a lump in my throat. There was home yet we weren’t stopping to get on with our routines and our lives. That was over for now. So the feeling of finally coming home became jolting – because we had no place to call our own anymore. We were denied entry to the home I had loved for so many years – and that hurt.

Board, meals and transport were all laid out on tap courtesy of our family. Yet despite the love with which this was bestowed there couldn’t help but be a sense of imposing on others and dependence we aren’t used to. In some senses the dependence felt a little like having regressed to an earlier life stage.

I also noted other subtle differences. It would seem in the four months since we moved my expectations of normality have shifted. For example, it hit me in a way it never has before how undressed people are in Sydney relative to Melbourne – particularly around the beach.

And most surprisingly perhaps, the places I had longed to go to – the beach and the harbour – just fell ever so slightly short of my expectations. Perhaps I had built them up to unrealistic heights in my bout of homesickness, perhaps my tastes have subtly changed, or perhaps I just no longer need the comfort their beauty had previously provided.

So suddenly we were interacting in our space and with our family in new ways. And we had a new role to play – that of visitors rather than residents. This is an entirely different sort of interaction (particularly with our family) that I was not prepared for.

Don’t get me wrong, I did have a wonderful time in Sydney. I spent precious time with family and caught up with friends. We went to the beach and I totally revelled in catching a ferry on the harbour at night. Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling of being a fish out of water despite being right at home.

What is “home” anyway?

So I started thinking about what we mean by home anyway. Home can mean many different things to different people. I bet if I asked around I’d get a whole range of different responses like:

  • The place you were born
  • The place where you live
  • The place where your family and loved ones are (well most of them anyway)
  • The place you love
  • The place where you find the most sense of community and belonging
  • The place where you work
  • The place where you have the most emotional investment
  • The place where you can be yourself like no other place, where you can kick off your shoes and truly relax
  • The place where you need to carry out your life mission
  • The place where you want to be
  • The place where you have most autonomy
  • The place where you spend most of your time
  • The place were you are happy.

The thing is, all of these could give conflicting answers, yet apply simultaneously. This is clearly happening to me – Sydney ticks many boxes as does Melbourne.

So I’m not sure there is a single way to define home. Because home is an emotional connection – that means something different to each of us. Some kind of complex interaction of all of the above with a little magic thrown in for good measure.

Coming home

As the days crept by during our Sydney stay I found myself more and more identifying with Melbourne being home.  I found myself saying things like: “We go home on Sunday” and “When I get home…”.

This too was jolting. Could this really be me? Me who was pining for Sydney and the Harbour for months? Unbelievable.

But as our trip drew to a close I admitted to myself I was ready to go home to Melbourne.

As we walked in the door of our Melbourne home, I metaphorically kicked off my shoes and breathed that wonderful sigh of relief of coming home.

It was a hard step to recognise and accept that home (for now) is not Sydney. That for the foreseeable future I will be a visitor to a beautiful and wonderful city where I can connect with family and friends. Where I know I’ll be a visitor and won’t be jolted by the change in roles. But in the end, I’ll say goodbye with sadness and return home to Melbourne.

Home might be difficult to define – but it certainly is wonderful when you have it and something to be grateful for. Because it’s true, there really is no place like home.



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