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“I long for my home…”

Like me, you may have a persistent voice in your deepest thoughts—the ones that arise unbidden and instinctually when you need comfort—that says, “I want to go home.”

You could be standing in your kitchen or surrounded by family, and have this thought. You could be living in your chosen country abroad, your first studio apartment in the big city, or even your centenarian dream house with wainscoting and a rose-garden view. Still, this thought persists.

I have experienced all those moments. My journey has led me into homes of all sizes and types, to cities across the United States, Canada, and England, and still this thought haunts me. I remember sitting in my long-coveted Manhattan apartment, shortly after I moved in and had even defied the lease by painting walls dusty green and maple orange. I thought, “At last, the longing will stop. I have made this my home.” Nope. Within months, whenever I was feeling unsettled, overwhelmed, or disturbed, the thought arose: “I want to go home.”

Sometimes I’ve pondered whether I am longing for my childhood home, on the plains near Denver, Colorado, with the grand peaks of the Rocky Mountains a short drive away. I lived in a suburb so new it didn’t have a name, but what mattered was that it gathered many young families together. In the pre-cellphone and video game era, the children flocked to a wild-growing greenbelt along a creek to climb trees and imagine we were explorers. But when I think of the trials of childhood and just how hard it is to grow up, I realize that I don’t long for my childhood home. I long for the sense of home.  

It’s now clear that no matter where I am in life, I long for home. Some may say it’s the result of the inevitable march of change. But if you’re like me, you may not really want to freeze time. Even if you could choose an era from your life, and re-inhabit it forever, you may still long for another aspect of what feels like home. 

I’ve come to think of this experience of nostalgia, or longing for home, as a reminder to return to the center of myself. The core truth is that I bring home with me wherever I go, as long as I am centered in who I am. The deepest thought, “I want to go home,” is actually a signal that lets me know something has pulled me away, or is demanding too much of me, or violates a value I hold.

At the same time, the experience of longing is itself a valuable experience. It drives my curiosity as I research and write books that take place largely on the frontier in the nineteenth century. Do I want to go back in time? In some ways, yes, in other ways, no. I’ll write about that in other blog posts. But generally, feeling an insatiable longing for home causes me to explore new things too as I attempt—and fail—to listen to what the longing is telling me.

It turns out that home is not a fixed place that never changes. Longing for it is a soothing way to chase after the things that bring us peace, in any moment. In fact, it’s a calling from the center of who we are that leads us closer to our true home within.

What is your longing for home telling you?

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