“Home” seems to be conflated often with a sense of ownership or right to ownership. If someone owns a house, it is called their Home. Legal right to a property makes it Home. A Canadian resident calls Canada their Home. In that sense, Canada is not properly Home to those of European descent, but rather it is the Home of Canada’s First Peoples. This is Home as a physical territory. That territory acts symbolically, with stories giving it its meaning and importance. Ultimately, though, the stories told that make a place home are tied to that physical place itself. Home in this sense implies that one has the right to tell stories that make that land theirs, and that grant them rightful ownership of that land, their Home.
This definition of Home, however, is contentious. One cannot be surprised that, when multiple stories are told about a single territory, there will be conflict. Home does not have to be defined in a way that causes contention over physical territory. Rather, Home can be defined as a feeling. I don’t mean this in the “home is where the heart is” or “home is where one hangs their hat” way, but that Home exists where comfort and familiarity exists. Where one feels they can be themselves fully, away from pressures causing discomfort, grief, or doubt. When one’s identity is crafted by and reflective of the places and people that one interacts with, they will feel at Home. This is far closer to what Chamberlin is getting at when he refers to the homelessness of Aboriginals – it is not so much an absence of a tangible shelter, but rather a feeling of being sheltered (78).
That is where Home is for me. I was born in Vancouver, but moved to Calgary before I could remember much of anything about the rainy city. I was raised in Calgary, which was either too cold or too hot, but the familiarity of the places, people, and erratic weather is what made that place Home for me. And it wasn’t all of Calgary that was Home, but only one neighbourhood called Lake Bonavista. Lake Bonavista is the place where I built my identity as a child and adolescent, and the people there identified with me. I want to stress that although Lake Bonavista was Home, I felt absolutely no sense of ownership or control over that environment. I felt no preexisting right to be there. The point is that one does not have to own a place for it to be Home, unless owning it is part of the sense required to be at Home. At that point I probably would have been less comfortable owning anything.
Following a twelve year stint in Alberta, I moved to South Surrey with my parents following a job my father was promoted to. At first, there was no way that my new surroundings could feel like Home. I know no one, nor any place. Again, this was not a result of me not having a shelter, or what they call a “home.” It was far more true that I was no longer at Home. My identity at the time was built elsewhere and tied to far away things and people. As it goes, however, after the years I grew more familiar with my surroundings, and after some time I felt at Home. I had friends, I had a strong bearing on my surroundings, and I had situated myself with where I was. I identified with my surroundings and they identified with me. I was Home.
Moving out to UBC was not a large jump for me. South Surrey is only about an hour and thirty minute bus ride away. I did fine moving out here, and I had friends from high school to do it with. Of course it was an adjustment, but I never felt the same Homelessness that I did in the move from Calgary.
I went and visited friends in Calgary this winter (do not go to Calgary in the winter unless you know what you are getting yourself into). I was expecting to feel a kind of melancholy when I got there, perhaps for missing what I thought I would consider my “true Home.” However, I felt no attachment to the place at all. Instead, I felt slightly alienated. Calgary is not my Home anymore. My Home is now out in Vancouver with the people that I know and the places that I go. My identity is built from those places and people.
For me, Home is an idea, and that idea is borne out of the stories that I tell to myself and to others. Familiarity with situations (even familiarity with unfamiliarity) and comfort with myself is that which makes me feel Home. And so, as idiomatic as it may be, it might be true that Home is where the heart is – the heart being the identity of the self. If the way we personally identify matches and is approved by our surroundings, we feel safe, comfortable, and at Home. I do not think that the implications of this are profound, but rather that we already know it. It might be a slightly dominant narrative that Home is tied to ownership, but we know better. We know that Home is tied to our identity. “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are,” and Home is one of those stories (King 2).
“Alerts for: City of Calgary.” Weather.gc.ca. Government of Canada, 6 June 2016. Web. 6 June 2016.
Chamberlin, J. Edward. If This is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?: Finding Common Ground. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2004. Print.
King, Thomas. The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Toronto: House of Anansi Press Inc, 2003. Print.