I have had many homes, and at the same time only one. Twenty-two years ago me, my younger sister and my brand new baby sister, along with my parents, moved to a house I ended up living in for the following fifteen years. In that house, my sisters learned to walk and talk. In that house we would run across the three floors and hurt ourselves falling down so many times, I’m sure my parents lost count. In that house we celebrated birthdays, primary school graduations, secondary school graduations, high school graduations and college graduations. Out of the 26 Christmases I’ve lived through, 21 I have spent under that roof. My first kiss happened in that house. When I got my heart broken for the first time, I cried away my teenage angst in my room, in that home. When I was an angry teenager, I wanted nothing more than to get out of that house. When I grew out of that anger and became a grown up, and the world sometimes felt too scary, I wanted nothing more than to be back in that house.
That house Is my Home. And I doubt there will ever be another one like it.
And yet – I’ve also had a home in two other cities in Finland. I’ve had a home in Brazil – twice. I’ve had a home in Kenya, and now I have a home in New York. These homes don’t have markings on the wall reminding me of how tall I was when I was ten or twelve. These homes don’t have corners, nooks, smells and items that carry memories from the past two decades. Still, they all were homes. I grew up in all of them. I learned new skills in all of them. I cried and laughed in all of them. I wanted to be somewhere else in all of them.
So, the question is – what is it that makes a home? It’s a personal question, with no one universal answer. After having many of them, I have come to realize that for me what makes a home are the people in that home. That Home of mine, back in southern Finland in a town of approximately 20,000 people, is a Home with capital H. It has no competitors. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel at home here, in New York. I do. And I feel at home here because of the people I have an honor to have in my life. The people back in Finland, who always welcome me back no matter how long I have been gone. My family, who has always supported me, no matter where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, no matter how crazy it sounded like, no matter how far it took me from them. And now, my friends here, who have made this concrete jungle into something warm and welcoming, into an adventure it never would have been, had there not been all these amazing people who have now become a permanent part of my life – no matter where I eventually end up.
You all make my Home. Here, I am a foreigner. Sometimes I feel like one in Finland too. My life has become a search of something that would eventually feel familiar to me, that wouldn’t be foreign ground anymore. Sometimes it is frustrating, annoying, tiring, frightening – most of the times, though, it is a lot of fun. What is the best part of it though, is knowing that whenever I feel too lost in my search, whenever home feels too far away, all I need to do is pick up the phone and dial, or open a photo album, or show up at a friends door step – and, in a matter of seconds, I am back home again. That is pretty amazing.