A couple of weekends ago, I drove to Austin on Friday night, crashed at the home of some dear friends, hopped back on the road and went to Houston Saturday morning, then returned to Dallas Sunday night. And in every single city, I was greeted with, “Welcome home!”
It made me laugh, which is better than having an existential crisis, I guess. But I wondered for the millionth time, what is it that makes a place home? When do you feel that? When does it kick in?
Austin is home in that it’s where I’m from. It’s where I was born and mostly raised, and I credit its culture with shaping me in an undeniable way. I could write a piece on just that at some point (and want to), but basically, yes, I am a little weird.
My roots are in the hill country, no matter where I go. But even someone as young and near-removed as I can testify that Austin, in many ways, barely resembles the city I grew up in. Culture is people, and the people have multiplied and spread out so fast from so far that Austin now feels more like a city trying to be Austin than the thing itself. I love to visit, and it will always be mine in a way that no transplant can claim. But it’s no longer home.
Then there is Houston, the city I swore I would never live in, much less love. It didn’t win me over right away, but there’s something infectious about the culture. Bursting with colorful personality, the city is always good for a raucous welcome and causing a little trouble. I wanted in.
Luckily, while other Texas cities are looking for pedigree, all Houston demands is loyalty. I may not have any true roots in Houston, but my enthusiasm for it sufficed. And with my family and, now, so many of my dearest friends there, it has a permanent place in my heart, tugging at me like a magnet. It is home in the sense that it feels like. It is not in the fact that I live four hours from it.
On the other hand, there is Dallas. It is home in the basic sense: I live there. I pay rent on an apartment there. It is where I go to work and church and the grocery store. It feels the least like home, since I have the least attachment to the city itself; but as my community there deepens and expands, I'm sure that will change. It's hard to know.
Is home where you're from, or where you live, or where your people are? What if your people are scattered across those places? Do you ever feel completely rooted, or do you just choose?
Sometimes I resent the feeling that I am more like a tumbleweed than any sort of plant; rolling along with no roots in sight. Having three places to call home feels like having nowhere to call home.
But on the best, on most, I opt to stop at simply having three places to call home. I'm lucky for it. Some people never feel at home anywhere, and I have multiple cities that claim me in some capacity. And the roads between feel just as familiar at this point.
There will still (maybe always) be days that I wish I could answer with confidence, "Where's home?"
For now, I'll just keep alternating between a shrug, over-explanation, and simply, "Texas!"
Where is home for you?