Writer Pico Iyer talks about finding a sense of home in the modern world.



Home. Such a delicious word. I’ve been rolling it around on my tongue as long as I can remember, romanticizing the idea of it someday holding an intimate truth for me instead of just being an idea. Even as a small child, I was hyper-aware of everyone else having a Home and of me not really having one. I was shuffled around a lot. I always had a bag packed. I slept on other people’s couches and in their guest beds, in hospital lobbies and patient room chairs. I didn’t reach a place of thinking, ‘I can settle here. This is mine.’ Because soon I would be somewhere else.

I still haven’t reached that place of Here, Mine. The nomadic shuffle of my early years has carried on through adulthood as I have moved through a series of roommates and boyfriends and more roommates. There are places that have felt familiar, yes, but never Here, Mine. Never Home.

I have tasted little bits of Home, tried it on for size when I could – mostly in dance studios. I grew up taking ballet classes six days a week, and the studio became the closest thing to a home that I have ever had. What I have always loved most about ballet is that it is a universal language; I can walk into a ballet studio anywhere in the world and the steps will be the same, the basis of technical requirements will be the same.  There will be cold floors, smooth barres running along the walls, huddles of dancers stretching and pulling on knit legwarmers before class, the tinkering of a pianist warming up his hands. No matter where I am, there can always be a ballet class. What a lovely idea. It is always the same. It is a sort of home.

In the TED Talk above, Pico Iyer talks of finding oneself – and realizing one’s home – through a balance of stillness and movement. I have mastered the movement to some extent; I am accustomed to living in a flux state, ebbing and flowing with the tides. But I have always longed to be still, to feel still. Maybe this is why I became a dancer in the first place – by doing so, I found a way to create some consistency in all that movement, a way to stay upright in the currents.

It took me a very long time to realize I had the option to control this life of perpetual motion. That I could speed it up, slow it down, surrender and let myself be carried along, or learn how to navigate and steer it all in the direction I want to go. I am learning when to hold tighter and when to simply open my palms and be carried. It’s a fine art of having faith in my center, even when I am off-balance – which is, of course, another lesson from ballet class. There is more to it than creating my own momentum; I also have to be able to harness that momentum, make it work for me instead of being led by it.

Iyer says, “Movement was only as good as the sense of stillness you could bring to it to put it in perspective.” Even in movement, the center is necessary. Even in flight, the idea of Home is steady ground.

I haven’t found my sense of stillness; I haven’t found my Home. But I have faith that I will find it eventually, buried amongst all the other things in the center of my being.

I realize now that maybe Home will never be a place for me to settle and plant roots, or a person to come back to at the end of the day. Maybe Home will just be the sweet calm that I feel when I learn how to let the strongest currents wash over me without eroding any of my faith. Maybe finding Home will be nothing more than finding a stronger sense of myself – learning to create roots the same way I have created wings, learning to find and hold onto faith the same way I find and hold onto my center, learning to ignite an internal stillness the same way I propel my body into motion. Learning the balance. Because that’s what Home really is: the balancing point.

“And home, we know, is not just the place where you happen to be born; it’s the place where you become yourself.”

- Pico Iyer

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