Dustin Dunaway

I feel like I live in two worlds.

They’re similar, my two worlds. They come in the same shade of yellow, they have the same indie-rock soundtrack and they’re full of the same old clutter. Still, I can’t help but notice how different my two worlds are.

One world exists in California. The sun sets on the beach, the strawberries are sickeningly sweet and my bedroom walls are splashed with a shade of robin’s egg blue only a nine year old could have picked out.

My world in Connecticut overflows with Koffee? punch cards and stolen concert posters. It’s a collection of woolen Christmas sweaters and waterproof jackets. It’s late nights of academia and works of art and movie marathons with friends.

My two worlds are both undeniably me, and somehow they are both undeniably home.

I didn’t realize how different my two worlds were until I zipped the final zipper on my second suitcase and said goodbye to my house in California after four long months at home. Teetering on the brink of a scale in my bathroom, my whole life was reduced to 100 pounds of my material belongings and the rest I was leaving at home. My oldest friends, my family, my cats — I left them all at home.

Then why is it that even when I’m 3,000 miles away, I still manage to feel at home?

I have two theories about the concept of home that could answer my burning question. The first is that life is a strange, fleshy version of The Sims™ in which some gamer god plops me down wherever they want and decides to call my new residence “home.” But since we probably don’t live in a simulation and I probably make all of my mistakes thanks to my own free will, my second theory seems more plausible: Home is where the heart is. And my heart is all over the place.

Now, I know I brought in an overused cliche that’s probably cross-stitched into every suburban family’s favorite throw pillow, but hear me out — I have one heart, but my homes are innumerable. A piece of my heart is carved into a tree in Wales right next to a best friend’s initials from last year’s Thanksgiving adventure. There’s a hint of heart on the cinnamon shaker in the Blossom Hill Starbucks from every morning Sheldon made my coffee just right. I blew my heart away in a dandelion in a front yard on Newhall Street.

So long as I have a heart, I can make anything home.

I think the concept of having just one home is really challenging. Having to choose just one place or one person to mold into the shape of a sanctuary and an escape is daunting, especially when our lives are changing at a mile per minute and we’re just trying to keep pace. Home as a noun only encapsulates the place you live, the walls that surround you and the floor you stand upon. To me, home is a feeling.

I don’t have to be in my place of residence to feel at home. I don’t have to hold the key or sign the deed to claim it as my own. I can share my home with people — actually, I would prefer to share my home with the people I love because they are absolutely crucial to my feeling at home. Though I am from California, I can’t rightfully call the entire state my home. There are parts of the Golden State that I despise — Bay Area traffic, cold In-N-Out french fries, palm trees — and there are the parts that feel like home that I feel I could replicate almost anywhere in the world — the feeling of sliding across a hardwood floor in fresh socks, cold coffee in the late afternoon sun, the lull of the television when the news has ended and everyone’s stopped listening. But you won’t find “Jeopardy playing in the background” in any dictionary definition under Home. These rather unextraordinary pieces of my heart feel like home because I have decided that I need them. They hold memories that make me feel warm and comfortable. They put me at home.

But no one is going to experience home like I do. No one’s concept of the place and the feeling is exactly the same, which is why I believe we have to make a house a home; it doesn’t come that way, we build it with all the little pieces of life we collect.

My collection of home lives on both coasts, in pictures of the clouds from places I can’t remember and in the ambiguously fruity flavor of Juicy Fruit gum I buy at Safeway. My living room couch feels like home not because it exists in my house, but because I’ve spent so much time on the right side that I’ve left an Audrey-sized indent in the cushion. Because there’s a cat-sized one directly next to mine. Because I broke the pristine whiteness of the fabric the day I spilled coffee on the arm.

Maybe for me, making home is habitual. The habits of my heart encapsulate the things that make me happiest and I go about my daily life collecting homes like it’s easy. I won’t go as far as to say that it’s actually easy to live simultaneously everywhere and nowhere, but so long as I have a heart I know I can find a home.

Audrey Steinkamp | audrey.steinkamp@yale.edu .