When where you live doesn’t feel like Home

We’ve been having a relatively long-running neighbour dispute, despite being good at the rough & tumble which comes with the shared space aspect of apartment living. I won’t go into the detail of the dispute, ‘cos it’s all a bit unnecessary and silly, especially when you consider the current state of the world. But, at the end of yet another disagreement, I went inside our ground level apartment and drew the curtains shut. For the next few days, I kept those curtains closed, for I felt emotional, and even a tad vulnerable.

Of course I’ve now gotten over myself and regained my equilibrium, but can’t say I’m full of the milk of human kindness towards certain neighbours. Despite that, I’ve drawn a line under the dispute. There is only one way for the situation to be fixed, and it’s not in my power, so I needed to make that decision.

But the experience caused me to muse – once again – on the subject of “belongingness”. When first learning of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs during my Psychology studies, its simple message chimed with me – but it also identified a fairly constant gap in my life. What’s clear to me is that the majority of people know where they belong, for it’s where they were born/grew up, where their friends & loved ones are, where their life is, where they’ve put down roots. But when you’ve had an itinerant childhood (and/or life), it’s not so clear cut.

I’ve been an outsider for most of my life – feeling at home in a country where I looked different to the population, then feeling like an alien in a country where I looked like the white majority. I grew up with many who had similar experiences, and have often pondered if I’m alone in my feeling of having roots which struggle to get down deeper than the top layer of soil.

For a few years in my fifties, I lived in a small town, had friends in the local community, a local (pub) and rugby club, and an active & lively social life. I was happy, at ease, and felt I was home. I was ready to put those roots down properly… until family needs meant I had to relocate and – over time – those local ties have dwindled under pressure of distance.

Life has changed significantly since that time. My father died and my mother had to sell their home of 40 years. I no longer live alone but with Himself, and our current residence was chosen for its convenience to Himself’s work. It provided us with an opportunity to get a feel for the area, to decide if it was somewhere we wanted to stay long-term. And there’s no doubting we like it – the lower traffic levels, the rural nature of our surroundings, the slower pace of life, the shorter drive to the seaside – and yet…

Having sought to address this with practicalities and mindset work, the truth is that Brexit and the political situation have made me feel unsettled and unsure. So, what makes this country home right now is primarily the presence of my daughter and my grandchildren, and I have to acknowledge that’s may not be enough to feel I truly belong – especially as they’ve expressed a (not so) secret desire to escape to Europe one day, which I wouldn’t mind… at all πŸ™‚

What makes where you live feel like home? Have you ever felt you didn’t belong? If so, how did you resolve it?

Β© Debra Carey, 2022

21 thoughts on “When where you live doesn’t feel like Home

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  1. Interesting question. For a while when I lived in Wyoming and had a nice group of friends that, though we were all different, all supported each other, that felt a lot like home. Other than where I grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City, that is the closest I’ve felt to being home. This is not home. I had some hope that it might be but no, this isn’t home. Maybe there’s still a chance.

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  2. I have always felt a bit on the outside, and that’s OK. I think it is because although I have always lived in Canada, I was raised in a Dutch household, in Dutch culture, and in the Dutch language. So going to school and being immersed in Canadian culture as I grew up, it was always a bit foreign to me and I observed it as any “tourist” would. 😁

    I have learned I can be “at home” just about anywhere as I keep my home inside of me, and not at a physical location. It’s more of a mental or spiritual location. If that makes any sense…


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  3. Oh! I have so much to say on this topic. Where to begin? Like you, I lived abroad for a long time, almost 20 years. Unlike you, I lived at home in the United States until I was in my mid-twenties. We lived in Manila most of that time. On the one hand, being an expat gives one a sense of belonging. You’re part of a large group of foreigners. Despite being from different countries, you’re all far from your homes and families, sharing the experience and relying on each other for friendship. Your children go to the same international school. You invite each other to your parties. You go swimming at the same pools. It’s one of the friendliest experiences I’ve had. I felt at home there. And yet, after a while, you start feeling that you’ve been far from your family for too long. It’s not your government. You can’t vote. You probably can’t own a house. Your career has been interrupted. So it’s a curious feeling of belonging and not belonging.

    For many years, I’ve been back in my country. I live in the Seattle area, not too far from the small town where I grew up. And I feel at home here. I live in a friendly neighborhood. Most of my family lives not too far away. I love my critique group. I’m in my 70s, so maybe I don’t have as much need of belonging as a younger person. And yet, there’s always something, isn’t there? You mentioned Brexit. Since the Trump presidency, the US has changed. It seems that we’re two countries now, and we don’t even like the other half.

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  4. As your other commenters say, this is a tough question. I feel blessed that we live where we feel like we are β€œhome”. I can definitely see how difficult this is for so many people, torn between two cultures, political divisiveness, etc. I came to Canada from the US when I was 17 to attend university, and never left except for two periods when I lived in the UK. I feel like I was born to be a Canadian, especially a Maritimer! Lucky indeed.

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  5. Oh, right in the feels, as they say! I went to six different schools before I ever got to high school, went a thousand miles away for college, and then 3,000 for graduate school. All I ever wanted was permanence–literally a little stone house in New England and to never move again.

    And yet I am not entirely sure I belong there anymore. I’m used to diversity and the Trump Era, like Brexit, has revealed some really ugly things about small town white America. I’ve put down roots in Los Angeles.

    But my roots are nothing compared to roots my kid has put down here. He has only lived in one house, on one block, a mile from the ocean, with neighborhood friends, soccer friends, and many of the same classmates.

    He’d probably shiv us in our sleep if we moved.

    As a person who engaged in a public argument with an absolute dick of a next door neighbor, I send many hugs and all the sympathy. I avoided getting into it with any neighbor, no matter how awful they were, because it’s so unpleasant to live in conflict in a place that should be your sanctuary from conflict. But now? I just flip him off from the safety of my living room on a daily basis.

    I also smile at the tree I saved every time I walk by and maturely think, “Ha, ha, I won.”

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  6. This is such a rich topic/question. I’ve spent most of my adult life regretting a decision I made to move away from family/friends when I was 26. Thanks to other decisions, I felt unable to go back. In a few years, that might be possible, but…after 30+ years, I wouldn’t be going back. “Back” doesn’t exist anymore. And, in the meantime, where I live now is home to my children.

    As for neighbors and divisiveness: Yeah. I’m not sure which country you’re living in now, but the US doesn’t feel like home to me the way it did before the Trump era. As someone else said, it feels increasingly like two countries. I feel lucky to be mostly in alignment with the majority where I live, but it feels so strange to know that in other places I would feel “other” (and maybe not as safe).

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  7. I’ve been a nomad my entire life. Thought I’d lay down permanent roots in the Pacific Northwest, but alas, that was not meant to be. Will I remain where I’m living now for the rest of my life? Stay tuned…

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  8. It’s tricky isn’t it Zazzy? I knew when we moved in here that it wasn’t home, it was just somewhere convenient where we would live. We lived it well enough, and I still believe we will find that place which will be home for us. I just have no idea where it is right now and – at my age – that feels somewhat disconcerting. But we’ll keep on keeping on till we find it eh?

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  9. Deb, keeping home inside of you does make sense, thank you – it is something I shall strive more to do. I know that I’ve connect emotionally with some places I’ve lived, but not with others. But as that type of decision often has to be made on a pragmatic basis, it’s inevitable. I’ve discovered it’s a lot easier making a decision as a sole party than when a couple, as you’re having to balance the other’s person’s needs as well. Being a selfish singleton had its benefits in some ways πŸ˜‰

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  10. Nicki, you’re so right about the feeling you get of belonging when within an expat community. It is transient and ever-changing, but the constant is that you’re all in it together and you’re never alone – unless you actively choose to be. A friend of mine who’d lived all her life in the same part of the UK went to West Africa with her new husband for a few years but, when they moved back to the UK, refused to relocate to another part of the UK. Indeed, the marriage foundered on the basis of her decision. I was the only one of her friends who understood that the move to West Africa was easy in comparison to a move within the UK. There’s always a structure to expat life and communities, moving to a new community in this country is never easy.

    Brexit and the fault lines it exposed in the UK haven’t healed. Of course, that stuff was always there, it was just Brexit brought it out into the open. But now that the box is open, that “me first” attitude is worn loud & proud, being visible and audible across every discussion, regardless of topic. It’s distressing isn’t it?


  11. You are lucky Jane, and it’s great to witness πŸ™‚ I did wonder whether Himself & I could retire to Canada. But my daughter is terrified of flying, so…

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  12. Yes, yes, yes! After my itinerant childhood, I made a decision to stay put throughout my daughter’s childhood so she got to experience growing up with friends & family around her. Of course, no sooner was she old enough, than she went off travelling – but I believe she did it from a secure base. As a mother now herself, the secure base she’s chosen for her children is a part of East London, where I’m sure they’ll stay unless it becomes unsafe. As you say, those kids would take their chunk of flesh if she & her husband tried to move them for no good reason πŸ˜‰

    Thank you for the hugs & the sympathy – they’re much appreciated. I shall apply the indoor flip off method too πŸ˜€ I’m not sure I will win, as the people with the power are taking the stance of “being disappointed” but no action. No matter, this isn’t our forever home, so I’m OK with that. If it was, things would be different – I can be an extremely determined combatant.

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  13. Rita, I used to wonder if this was something I alone felt. Yeah – I know – how self-absorbed eh? πŸ˜‰ But the world being the way it is at the moment, I’m realising that an itinerant childhood isn’t the only reason for having such feelings.

    Such a complex situation for you – being able to move “back” but knowing that it’s not there anymore, and it involving leaving where your children feel at home. I don’t envy you that decision.


  14. Ha ha Mark πŸ™‚ Love to read of your happy nomad experience. I used to be one, or at least a happy enough one. Now I just want some of that back again, but it seems harder to recapture.

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  15. Oh, yes, my kid is very excited to travel, too. And he’s been collecting frequent flyer miles since he was 2 months old. But as you say, he had a secure base.

    I hope on a regular basis that my neighbor will move. Maybe if I plant a few more trees.


  16. What makes where you live feel like home? The stuff I own makes me feel at home because it goes wherever I go– and is nonjudgemental.

    Have you ever felt you didn’t belong? Always

    If so, how did you resolve it? I’m accustomed to not belonging, never felt like I did from day one so for me it’s a non-issue

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  17. Thanks Ally. I think that’s what’s hitting me right in the feels, as Autumn said πŸ˜‰ I’ve been accustomed to it for a such a long time, simply accepting it as a part of who I am. But it’s started to bother me of late, and I’m having a bit of a flounder around as a result. Maybe our PM will finally resign and the parliamentary party will choose a proper candidate (in my dreams sadly), or maybe we’ll get a total change at the next election. Till then, I’ll just hug Himself, my girl & her babes close.

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  18. I don’t think I was searching for it before now, Deb. I moved a lot for jobs and I happened on an area that did feel like home. I could have stayed there were it not for life. I expect I will die where I am. Perhaps I will make this place home and feel I belong someday.

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  19. This is a tough one for me right now. I really like my current home and the circle of friends I have in this area, but in the last few years things have gotten weird. It’s not all about politics… but a lot of it is about politics. It’s not weird enough to make me want to leave, but if things keep getting weirder, at some point I might have to relocate.

    The effect of all this is that I’ve already put down some roots, but I’m nervous about putting down any more. And I don’t like being in this in-between state. If I’m staying, I want to commit to staying. If I’m leaving, I want to commit to leaving. For now, I’m trying my best to take a wait and see attitude.

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  20. Yes, I happened on my place which felt like home, although it was only ever someplace I intended as a short-term move. Funny how that works sometimes. I hope you will find the place that feels like you belong soon.


  21. James, as ever, you may have hit the nail squarely on the head. The whole situation – political in a large part – makes me uninclined to push those roots down deep. I know a couple of people who relocated over to Europe (oddly both to Portugal) before the Brexit restrictions came in, but when it was clear they were going to. Both are very happy with the choice they made, even though they left a lot of life behind them. In lots of way, my itinerant lifestyle should have prepared me for this, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Hey ho, I hope I get there – and that your wait & see attitude bears fruit.

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