All around the world, people define the word “home” differently. No matter the language it is pronounced in, every person has their own deeper, more individualistic perspective on the concept of a home. Some will say that it is a concrete place, whereas others might describe it as a combination of feelings.
My own, personal definition of “home” came about through my experiences while traveling. In the summer of 2017, after my freshman year of high school, I was traveling with my grandmother to Belarus, a country in Europe, where I learned more about my values than I previously anticipated, one of them surrounding my definition of “home.” It was the little things in Belarus that brought me to this important realization. It was the long walks in Gorky Park and Park ?aliuskinca? surrounded by trees swaying in the wind, sparrows jumping around the sidewalks pecking at the little pieces of food leftover by the careless on goers, and the little children laughing as they hurriedly ran to conquer the next ride the park would unveil, that opened my eyes to a reality that I had not yet discovered prior: Belarus was no longer my home.
My entire family originates from Belarus, which led me to believe that this had always been my home. I had lived there for three years before I moved to the United States and still visit Belarus every few years to spend time with my family. However, this year’s trip felt different. I felt as though there was an invisible barrier that isolated me from those who regularly resided in Minsk, the capital of this country. Obscured stares would seemingly follow me anywhere I went, judging me for the clothes I wore on my back or the phone I carried in my hand. Simply walking home from the Shopping Mall or Vitalur, a Belarusian grocery store, was accompanied by the constant worry about whether I was walking normally or if my posture was straight. Were my footsteps too loud? What if the woman walking behind me sees me as a self-entitled, egocentric person? I wanted to blend in, but even when I looked like those around me, the thoughts of judgment and unfamiliarity encompassed my mind. The eyes in the subway trains following my every move, making sure I didn’t cause the people around me even more discomfort than they were already in. It was the little kids staring me down as if they knew I was an intruder in their country that made me feel worst. The eyes that were seemingly non-existent to an everyday passerby, but so prevalent to a so-called foreigner, caused me to realize how my residence and lifestyle set me so far apart from the people around me.
These feelings of distress caused by my own lack of confidence in blending in, made me see that this place was no longer my home and that being born somewhere does not make that place one’s home, it merely makes it a birthplace. It opened my eyes to the reality that had stood right in front of me all along – a home is where one feels at home, to be blunt. It is where one feels love, familiarity, shares a common lifestyle with those around them, and where one feels comfortable in their own skin, not feeling the pressure of changing themselves to blend in. I learned that America is my home.
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