Home Is Where The Heart Is?

Amish Country Farm
How much does where you call home define you?

It’s perfectly clear that where we were raised plays a large role in our character. I grew up in Lancaster, PA, a small town known for its Amish community, rolling farm lands, history, and conservative minds. I went to a small public school and graduated with 150 other sheltered youth. There’s no doubt that I would be a completely different person if I was raised in a large city or in the Midwest or if I went to a private all girls school or to a huge city school. That’s pretty obvious. 

But how about when you’re an adult? What happens when you’ve matured, changed from that sheltered and naive child, when you’ve traveled, moved around a bit? Does your home town still have that much weight in defining who you are?

Most conversations with new acquaintances start with a similar question, “Where are you from?”

It feels like they are trying to compartmentalize you, figure you out. Usually I just say, “Lancaster, PA” but others times I want to say, but I’ve also lived in Maryland and Chicago. Those homes are part of who I am too. I’m more than just a girl from Amish country. Maybe I feel like that because I sometimes feel out-of-place in my town.

As a teenager I’d often find myself in my bedroom, the door closed and emo music blasting, wishing to get out of this town. To be anywhere but here. Who didn’t feel that way at 16?

I never thought I’d move back to Lancaster as an adult. But circumstances changed and life made that decision for me. After ending a bad breakup in Chicago I had no job, no money, and nowhere to go but home. I took shelter in my childhood home and clung to my family and the familiar. I’m forever grateful for having a place to come home to and a family to take care of me.

As my bitterness resided I began to fall in love with my hometown in a way I never would have guessed. I was slowly turning back into the woman I thought I had lost but I was also turning into someone new at the same time. I liked the fresh air, even when it was full of manure. I liked the openness, the freedom to breathe. The downtown had gone through a renaissance since I had left 10 years prior and I enjoyed the new bars, restaurants, shops, and art galleries. There was a beauty in its simplicity. Cheap housing and no traffic didn’t hurt either.

I began to perceive it as something more than a town to escape. It was home. A place full of family history and memories and I clung to them dearly. 

But there’s still a part of me that feels like this town isn’t my home. And even if I do decide to stay here for the rest of my years that may be a feeling that never changes. Some days I’m content and others I am not. I am filled with wanderlust. We love taking day trips and weekend getaways. I often imagine what it would be like living somewhere else in the country or world. I consider comparing housing markets in different areas a hobby. 

Somedays Lancaster feels like home and other times it feels like a trap. 

I didn’t choose to come back and live here. But how often do we, as adults, get to choose our home town? Family obligations jobs spouses income all have a say in where we live. But does the location really matter? Isn’t home where the heart is?

My heart belongs to Ryan and it belongs to my family. I have too many ties to family and too little risk taking in my blood to be the type to drop everything and move cross-country or abroad on a whim. I’m too sentimental and too much of a planner to live a life going where the wind takes me. But even if part of my heart is here there is a little part of my heart that beats and yearns for some new experiences and for a home that feels like it completes me. 

There is too much out there to see and so many other women that I could grow into being.

If you could choose to live anywhere, where would you live? Forget about where your friends are. Forget about where you family lives. Forget about where you could get a job in your field.

They say live the life you imagined. They say home is where the heart is. What do you say? 

Is that even a question that warrants to be asked? Is it a silly romantic daydream? Is the yearning for more adventure simply part of the human experience?

What do you think? Does your current home town affect your personality? Does it play a big role in who you are? If you could live anywhere where would you live? 

  • I don’t think your hometown has to define you unless you want it to. I’m from a smaller suburb within the big sprawling metroplex of Dallas. And that suburb has its own stereotypes that I’d rather not associate with, and besides, it doesn’t matter half the time because unless the person you’re talking to is from the Dallas area (and therefore wants specifics), just saying you’re “from Dallas” is good enough for just about everyone. And it’s not that I don’t like and appreciate my hometown or anything, it’s just easier.

    And I DO have a heart filled with wanderlust and wanting new experiences and risks, and am okay with being away from family, and I don’t have problems with the unknown … but I’ve got to say, I got everything I wanted when we moved, and am having a really hard time with it. I am quite lonely and bored here.

    • kwalshmac

      I agree that it doesn’t have to define you if you don’t want it to, but I can’t help but see how so much of your identity is tied to your roots. Having family that I rely on and that relies on me makes it hard.

      I’m so sorry to hear that you are so lonely and bored….give it some time! I hope things get better and you make it through the winter. How are you keeping yourself busy?

  • Part of the reason I am who I am today is because of where I came from (and lots of other factors too of course). Every place I have lived has helped shaped who I am though. All those places are part of my story too. I sometimes feel a pull back to my hometown….though I previously said I would NEVER live there again. I think a lot of it is that I would love for my son to grow up where his dad and I did. We also have both of our families there. At the same time, I also long to move somewhere far away. I once up and moved to Chicago for a year and a half (I’m from Seattle), and I love the adventure of living in a new city. Of course at the end of that adventure, I just wanted “home”, so maybe the grass isn’t always greener. At the end of the day, my home is wherever my little family is (although that sounds really cliche). No matter where we end up, as long as we’re together, I’m good with it. 🙂

    • kwalshmac

      Our story is made up of so many other parts than where we were raised and where we live in the moment. Sadly they are not always told or part of our “legacy”. I 100% agree with the urge to have my children (unborn at this moment but they are a dream of mine) experience the same type of childhood I did and also have a close relationship with my parents. Yet, I also want so much more for them. It’s such a pull. That’s great that you did do one big sporadic move. I also lived in Chicago for a short time and was so homesick for my home and the east coast. And hey, cliches are cliches for a reason 🙂 As long as you’re happy that’s all that matters. Thanks for sharing your story 🙂

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