POV: At Home.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV focuses on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories.


I moved out of my bedroom — an L-shaped alcove with three large windows and enough space for a four-poster bed — on a night when the heater, normally audibly asimmer, fell silent.

It was January.

Just weeks earlier, I had plans to move out of my apartment altogether, the first in a series of steps toward leaving New York City. For a variety of reasons, however, those plans had fallen through, and though I was relieved, I was also suddenly without a bedroom — my roommates, under the impression I was leaving, had already made plans for who would take it.

Luckily, I was able to move into one of the apartment’s smaller rooms, a task accomplished in minutes as I tore books from shelves and sheets off the bed, throwing everything in heaps in the hallway. Once it had all been stuffed into my new space — essentially a white box big enough for a bed and little else — I plugged in a lamp, found a seat atop a mountain of sweaters, and exhaled, watching in a daze as my breath turned to fog.


Now, nine months later, the tiny room is straightened and sorted, everything in its place. The beauty and the curse of having limited space is that near-obsessive neatness is the only way to remain sane — and as a consequence, I’ve gotten rid of many things. I have a few books. Photos. Artwork. A triangular rock painted to look like a slice of pocket-sized pizza (a treasured gift). But many things — most things — that I’ve held onto over the years are gone.

There’s something soothing about having only what I need. And, strangely, the space — still white, still tiny, still spare — still feels like home.

--

Last winter, while working on an assignment for Airbnb, I discovered the company slogan — ”at home in the world” — and found myself curiously moved. For a 30-year-old, unmarried and continually in transition, "home" doesn’t quite exist in a tangible sense.

But I feel it.

One of the joys — and certainly the most memorable challenge — of my last decade has been learning to be comfortable in the world, with its jolts, its miracles, its beauty and its terror. Much of that has to do with learning to be comfortable in my own skin, and with realizing that while physical surroundings may change, what’s at the center — what makes home feel like home — remains. You can always come home, my dad said to me the day I left for college. No questions asked.

I realize now home has only a sliver to do with place.

On the plane, returning home from a family vacation in Amsterdam, I finished a book and found myself overwhelmed by what felt like everything — the story, the altitude, the fleeting time we have with family. Tears streamed silently, inexplicably, down my face, and I let myself feel surprised for a moment before I remembered: oh, this.

--

Shortly after my January plans to leave New York were shelved, I went home to California to spend time with family for a couple of weeks. My parents had recently made a move of their own, selling their house and many of their belongings in favor of a much smaller home.

Bedroom-less again, I slept on the couch; our dog, Henry, curled at my side, nearly falling off.

It didn’t look like home. But still, some things were the same, and the new space carried comforts of the familiar: the smells of mirin and dashi and soy; the muffled sound of music coming from my dad’s headphones; old books in stacks under the coffee table, the spines of which I’ve gazed at since I was old enough to read.

I remembered being younger, five years old, tucked in bed in another house — my family’s second in a series of six moves total — listening as my parents got ready for bed. I couldn’t make out their conversation but the sounds of their voices made the room warm and my eyelids heavy.

Twenty-five years later, on the couch, in the dark, I listened to the same sounds and forgot myself. Forgot my grown body, and the dog, and the newly-painted room. I closed my eyes. Realized I could have been anywhere and known it was home.

--


You can find my previous POV entries, here. Thank you so much for reading, as always. Photo by Max Wanger.

12 comments:

burntfeather said...

So many ideas and thoughts woven into this piece - just lovely as always Shoko :) One day you'll have to share a photo of this pizza rock too :)

Liz said...

Beautiful, as always! You bring such life to these spaces. Thanks for sharing!

Niken said...

i have similar experience about home. I was a nomad for sometime and i never felt like i really had my own place, but everytime i come to my parents house - no matter where they are (they moved a few times as well), i know that i am always home. i love your writing

max said...

you get me every time. beautiful and captivating.

Paw said...

beautiful POV, beautiful photo.

cary said...

Lovely.Beautiful thoughts.

Raquel R. said...

Beautiful and moving.

rachael said...

i really enjoyed this post.

"One of the joys — and certainly the most memorable challenge — of my last decade has been learning to be comfortable in the world, with its jolts, its miracles, its beauty and its terror."

i told my best friend/best confidant yesterday that i finally feel like i'm growing into myself as a person, a woman, and i definitely feel it when i lay myself down to sleep at night. it is a very full feeling, like i'm finally in my body. no regrets, no apologies, just doing what i need to do, and doing what i feel like. doing what makes me feeeeeel things and spending time with loved ones! so important!

maybe it has to do with things that have transpired lately that have been out of my control--and things that have really hurt me--that are showing me that i am as resilient as i thought, and life goes on.

right?

magical said...

somehow you always manage to make me cry - in the best possible way. beautiful, as always. xx

Anonymous said...

Your writing reminds me of my younger, happier days in my 20s. Ha, I don't mean to sound like an old grump. How wonderful it will be if you can continue to live so joyously for a long time. If you get married, marry someone who loves you, loves your freedom, and who you know will not put limitations on you. Not that you asked—and I am pretty sure you don’t need my advice—but you seem like such a good and joyful person that I just had to offer my two cents.

Shoko said...

Thank you all so much.

Fee, I definitely will!

Niken, that's so lovely. And thank you.

Rachael, absolutely right! Such a beautiful thing!

Anon, those are very wise words, thank you so much. I'll definitely take them to heart. I so appreciate your taking the time to write — and please know that I'm sending happiness your way.

HB Collaborative said...

Your POV connects me to a prolific philosopher, Martin Heidegger:

Dwelling is not primarily inhabiting but taking care of and creating that space within which something comes into its own and flourishes.

thank you for sharing so many personal and universal thoughts that reveal the ordinary beauty of day to day life.

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