Home Is Where The Love Is

What is home? It’s a difficult question to answer. To many, home is a physical structure a place we can keep returning to even as circumstances change. But as we grow older, the idea of “home” becomes vaguer over time. We graduate high school and suddenly we’re forced to leave the only place we’ve ever known for somewhere new. I can clearly remember the day I left for college. I stared pensively out the passenger side window, watching as every Long Island beach and back road slipped out from under me.

But for myself and some other Emerson students, arriving in Boston was like coming home. I felt at ease with the city almost immediately, wandering amidst the skyscrapers and narrow streets I often found myself asking “Do I actually live here?”

So why then, within a matter of weeks did I feel at home in the city? Was it the indescribable sense of freedom I felt while walking to the Harbor and gazing back at the skyline at night? Was it running along the Esplanade and watching the little red sailboats drift along the Charles?

Yes, it was all those things, and a little something else. To feel at home, I first learned to love myself, and then I learned to love those around me. With my heart so full, loving the place I was in was easy. These thoughts in mind, I didn’t think twice when the opportunity arose to study abroad in Paris last semester. A city so renowned for its beauty and charm, and a place I’d always dreamed of living, I thought it’d be hard not to adore. Yet, when I found myself sandwiched between a dozen or so black clad Parisian commuters donning ear buds and scowling at their phones on the Metro, I wondered if I had made the right choice.

But for every one of these moments of doubt I experienced, there were instances in which I caught a glimpse of sheer human kindness that often works in mysterious ways. I caught a glimpse of love. One of my first days in Paris, still jetlagged and apprehensive, I purchased a Nutella crepe from a street vendor and hopped on the Metro. “I’m doing really well,” I thought, stuffing my change into my pocket nonchalantly. And all was well, it appeared, until I saw globs of Nutella escaping the wax paper, dotting my jeans and my leather bag. I blushed and attempted to fix the disaster, but failed miserably. I promised myself I wouldn’t be the obvious tourist the obvious American, but here I was. The man sitting across from me glanced over and handed me a wad of napkins, and for this small favor, I thanked him endlessly. Behind their blank stares and disinterested gazes, Parisians are in fact, caring.

Time after time, I caught a glimpse of the goodness of humanity. Walking across the Pont D’Alma on a windy day, a woman tapped me on the shoulder and chuckled. “ Votre jupe. Vous devez fixer!” Or, “fix your skirt!” I hastily fixed my skirt, and thanked her. As I continued walking, I wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed. I simply laughed at myself, and walked on.

When I was younger, I thought home was a place with windows and doors and a warm bed. I thought home meant family and good friends. It still does. But I’m glad I can say that I believe anywhere in the world can feel like home. All you need is love.

Photograph credit to Madeline Bilis

LivingKendall Stark