How do I define home?

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“Janeen, when are you coming home? ”  This is a common question asked of me when I visit friends and family in the states.  My father wants to know before ending every phone call lately.  Sometimes people ask because they truly miss me and I really appreciate that.  Some people have no clue why I would want to live outside of the USA at all.

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This is my childhood home on Dorr Street in Toledo, OH

At this point in my life, I have called multiple places home.  My family has lived in Toledo and Sylvania Ohio.  I have lived in Indiana, North Carolina, and Kuwait.  This summer I am preparing to move yet again, to the city of Istanbul, Turkey.  So which of these places is truly home?

That question is not as simple as you might imagine.  The home pictured above no longer belongs to my family.  I will forever have fond memories of it.  The memories matter because of the people who lived there and because of the experiences I had there.  Those people and those experiences made it my home!

Michigan City, Indiana became home when I became friends with Kelli, Brigid, and Tracy.  It will always be my first experience living alone and paying my own bills.  It is the first location where I fell in love….Nope, not that kind of love. I fell in love with the beach. I have had an unofficial rule since then that anyplace I live must be a short drive from a lake or within a couple hours of the beach.

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This was one of my favorite parks in Raleigh, NC

Raleigh, North Carolina was my home for 6 years.  Living there, I made too many friends to name in this one blogpost.  I faced and overcame some professional challenges that made me a better educator.  I ran my first 1/2 marathon and participated in regular running groups.  I met one of my closest friends, Kia, and shared an apartment with her. I had a really beautiful small group of friends from my church.

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In Kuwait, I learned a lot about living outside of my comfort zone.  I gained a greater appreciation for people from a variety of cultures.  I learned that a kindergartener is a kindergartener all over the world, no matter what language they speak.  I learned to get across town with a taxi driver who didn’t speak English.  I learned that the Middle East is NOT the scary place that the media depicts it to be.  Kuwait was also my launch pad for visiting 10 new countries. I met my co-author friends for this blog!

Living here, in this brand new world
Might be a fantasy
But it taught me to love
So it’s real, real to me
And I’ve learned
That we must look inside our hearts to find
A world full of love
Like yours
Like mine
Like home…
Charlie Smalls, 1975 Home, from The Wiz Broadway Musical

I really like the last two verses from the song “Home” of the Broadway show “The Wiz”.  They help explain my “non-traditional” version of home.  I feel as if living abroad gives me new insight into how I can love and live peacefully with people who are much different than me.  Unlike the character Dorothy, I am not desperate to return to my previous home.  I rather enjoy the adventure that I’m having as I “ease on down the road”.

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I just went through all the explaining above because there is not a single place that I call home.  I also have learned that home is more about my friendships and experiences than about the physical dwelling where I lay my head each night.

What will I do in Istanbul to make it feel like home?  I will make friends.  My experience has taught me that I can make friends in lots of places.  I will have a work routine.  I don’t know what else is in store for me.  I’m inviting you to join me as I prepare for this new beginning.  I might grow to love this new city.  I might hate it and want to leave early.  I don’t know what is in store, but I am excited to discover what relationships and experiences will help me to make Istanbul feel like home to me !

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