(Almost) Twenty, Homeless & Thriving

Winda A. Pratiwi
5 min readNov 13, 2018

home

/hōm/

noun

the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.

Technically speaking, unless if you’re literally homeless — everyone has a home. A roof above their head, a shelter, some are packed with their things and some are decorated with the newest sofa from the most recent IKEA collections.

What, and where is, home?

When I was a kid, everyone still has the same literal definition of what home is. I would answer the cliché question above with the equivalent cliché answer — my home address. Write down your street name and number, city, and so forth. It was simpler and easier to think about it that way. Right? Right.

Even though I spent most of my life in Cikarang; perhaps some of you haven’t even heard of the region, and if you have, yes, it’s the biggest industrial complex in Southeast Asia. From labor day riots to protests against greedy corporations and corrupt local government — I’ve witnessed it all. That region is definitely not somewhere I want to spend the rest of my remaining life in. I envision myself to live in Gothenburg, Sweden, if I were to settle for the bare minimum. Anywhere but Cikarang.

When did it get complex?

Since I was little, I always felt that I was slightly different than my family members (I still am, by the way). I remember having the urge to ask my parents about the smallest, most minor things such as, why is the sky blue? Why can’t I fly the way birds fly? Who is God and why is he so superior? How deep is the deepest sea? My parents didn’t answer much about it, hence why they gave me tons of encyclopedias and reading materials when I was a kid, because Google wasn’t even popular, or even established back then.

Growing up, I don’t really see eye to eye with my parents nor my used-to-be closest peers. I used to feel like I was trapped in a box called my own home… or house. The only place in my house that I could call my home was, and still is, my own room. My mom was furious when I decorated my room for straight three weeks, climbing up and down the portable stairs like a construction worker (I probably got it from you, Dad). I was so desperate on marking my sacred territory with the things I consider crucial for myself — from musical theatre Playbills, Broadway albums, books on history and politics, even Aaron Tveit. Little did I know that I was actually having an identity crisis.

The quest of finding myself comes a long way. Sometimes the way is rocky and the terrain experiences landslides. Life hasn’t only been about finding myself, searching for my ‘true’ home is also a part of it. A place where I can finally belong. West Virginia, Mountain Mama.. what?

The mighty quest to find my home

Along the way, I have found my ‘temporary homes’ in organizations, workplaces, even people. The saddest part is the latter entity that I just mentioned. People. What is it about people, well, human interactions, that I really loathe and avoid but I can’t live without at the same time?

As a part of being human, we are all inherently social beings. We need socializing. We are not special, though. Even the regulation of social behaviour is important to birds, squirrels, ants, and pretty much other beings. We also have the urge to do something that pleases us, and in one way or another, achieved by positive interactions with other human beings. Whether it’s platonic or romantic, scientifically speaking, there is no difference unless if we’re talking about the intensity of these interactions.

Due to social constructions, we are designed to procreate and form this little structure called family. Traditionally, it takes one functional man and woman to create little versions of themselves. How to tie a naturally polygamous animal with making them exchange chemicals and hormones, wrap it as something so sacred and eternal, and you will live happily ever after. The significant other should act as your rock, roof, foundation, rug, sofa, even your bed, thus they become 'home’.

As much as I love the science of love and attachment, I must say that I am bad at exercising it, especially the self-love part. I search for home in people and make myself stay in that home, constructing the idea that I can survive in that home no matter how bad the storms are, when the ceilings are leaking, the foundation is not strong enough, even when a tsunami hits my 'home’, I have to stay strong and get through.

Sadly enough, not all homes are worth enduring for. There is nothing you can do when you keep trying to fix a leaking ceiling when the ceiling itself needs to be replaced as a whole. Some ‘home owners’ are often in denial of those stuffs.

When the tsunami hits, your home will be gone in seconds. You’re homeless. You don’t think you’ll make it without your previous home that you once stood for. Tsunami resembles people who love you so passionately and suddenly become your home and shelter for affection, but once it hits you, it leaves you nothing. You become empty. You’re homeless without them.

How do you start over? How do you continue the passion to find other homes when you have to repeat the process over and over again, especially when it takes a very long time to adjust into a new home?

I’m still talking about finding my home in people, by the way. Starting from clean slate can be hard. There is one thing that I have learned from my past experiences, though.

You don’t find a 'home’. You make one yourself.

That may sound super pretentious but it is what I need, and if you’re recovering from your previous home, you should too.

I need to stop searching for home in other people. The only person I need to look after is myself.

I am my own home. I know my roof, ceiling, floor, rug, my other components and my own resistance. Instead of inhabiting other people, I need to inhabit myself. I need to live with myself and stick to myself through thick and thin. I need to know my strengths and weaknesses and to forgive myself when Iife needs me to be.

This is where the self-love part takes over. Once you make peace and inhabit your home, everything will follow. You will shelter yourself, yet make you grow in the meantime.

Establishing yourself as your own home is hard and it takes time. I, myself, still struggle to build my home from scratch after all the trauma that I’ve been through.

I hope someday we will have the strength, courage and persistence to finally embrace ourselves as our own homes. Here’s to the homeless, the tough fighters, the soul-searchers. You’re not alone.

This writing was inspired after listening to Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a childhood favorite. Along with this brief contemplation, I also listened to Arcade Fire’s Song on the Beach from Her movie soundtrack.

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