For the last two years of my life, I’ve lived in Hackney with my boyfriend. The first year we lived in a one bedroom flat above a pizza shop and a scary neighbour. The second year, we moved around the corner to a beautiful basement flat with wonderful little features that hadn’t been updated in years.
Before that, we lived in Cardiff for three years during university, moving across the city every year to a new flat and different surroundings. But we both grew up in the rolling hills of the Welsh Valleys and I spent my childhood in the home my mother still lives in.
Now, we’re living in New York for the summer. We’ve only been here a week but we’ve already moved from one neighbourhood to another, and it got me thinking about where I belong and how we connect with our surroundings. What does a place have to offer us for us to feel connected? How do we define our belonging? And is it the same as where we call our home?
In the two years I lived in London, I never called myself a Londoner. Despite living and working in the city and spending numerous hours exploring its streets, I never felt connected enough to identify as one. It never felt like home despite some of my -now- closest friends living there. Yet whenever I went back to Wales, I missed the city. I felt like a part of me was still there, but at the same time I knew I didn’t want to set up my life there. I didn’t want to stay forever.
I realised that in order to find out where I wanted to live and build a home, I needed to remove myself from everywhere I’d lived before. I needed to stop in order to discover where I felt like I needed to go. I needed to know where my soul longed for and where I felt the most comfortable.
In today’s age, we can create a home all over the world. Where you come from is less important than where you’re going and sometimes the place we feel we belong is the place we feel more ourselves. The place we feel like we’ve experienced some of life’s biggest moments, or the place we feel like we’ve grown the most.
For me, I’ve learnt that no matter where I go around the world, my home will always be where my family and friends are. I know it will always be the rolling hills of the Valleys. So long as they are there to greet me, then my heart will forever return. But as for where I belong? I guess I’m still figuring that out. I need to discover who I am, before I find out where I’m meant to be.