Sometimes I find myself thinking about where “home” is.
I’m from Durham, NC. I’ve lived in Beijing, China, almost nonstop since graduating from college. I’m 39 years old, so I think it works out that I’ve lived in China for about as long as I lived in North Carolina.
My wife was born in Hunan, but also spent time in Zhuhai, where her father served in the military. She went to university in Beijing, went back to Zhuhai to work for a couple of years, and then returned to Beijing for graduate school. She’s been here with me ever since.
Starting soon after our son turned one, we spent about a year traveling around to different cities. One reason for our travels was that we had always wanted to travel together, but another reason we talked about was looking for a place to live. A place to call home, at least for a while. We were intrigued by the idea of living in a “third country”. There were cities that we liked, but we ended up back in Beijing.
As our first son approaches elementary school, we feel a sense of urgency to decide where he is going to grow up.
Billy Joel has a song called “You’re My Home”. It’s kind of a cheesy love song (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I find myself returning to some of its lyrics:
Well I’ll never be a stranger
And I’ll never be alone
Wherever we’re together
That’s my home
Depending how you count, yesterday was our 15th wedding anniversary, and I’ve come to realize that home is where my family is. It’s where my wife is. It’s where my boys are. When we were traveling with our son Joe, whatever AirBnB we happened to be staying at was home.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t want to have a place that we have a strong identification with (in the way that North Carolina will always be home to me, in the way that Beijing may never really be home to us). It especially doesn’t mean that we don’t want to find a community for our kids to grow up in, where we can put down roots and build strong, long-term relationships. It just means that the specific place is a secondary factor, and I want to remember that.
I realize that I’m incredible fortunate to have the choice of choosing where home is, and also to have people that make me feel at home anywhere.