(From left to right): Aria Nayoung Kim, Sonya Gugliara, Joyce Chen, Nethmi Withanage at the Port Jefferson docks. Gugliara describes the friends she has met in college as her “new home.” SONYA GUGLIARA

The concept of home is much more complex than we acknowledge. Something, somewhere, someone can feel like home, but after a while, the warm and fuzzy feeling can fade into mere memory. A home goes beyond a physical structure; a home is a moment, a person or a place with a sentimental value that you may move on from or cherish forever.

I grew up moving back and forth between my grandmother’s house, my father’s house and my mother’s house. In theory, I had three homes, but I yearned for the kind of home that most of my peers had: a coherent nuclear family environment. However, I now realize that there is no specific meaning to home or what a home should be.

Even though my upbringing was not “normal” —  just as 88% of American families are not considered nuclear — I am fortunate enough to have found and been given many homes. These homes are not the places I lived, but the people, the moments and even the lessons I learned along the way. As a child, it is difficult to cope with familial struggles, especially when you feel as if you are out of control. So, the homes I had helped me feel secure in times of uncertainty.

As I got older, I endured periods of hurt and confusion because I suddenly felt out of place and out of love — without a home in an emotional sense. This pain stemmed not from my non-nuclear family, but from the people I grew close to and considered good friends. I noticed our values were no longer aligned. During these times, I felt betrayed and undervalued, scared and displaced.

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I truly believed that I was at fault. Maybe I wasn’t being communicative enough, or maybe I was just losing my mind. But when I started stumbling across new homes — safer and more caring homes — I finally understood that my original environment just was not for me anymore. I realized I could not live there any longer.

I’ve grown to accept that some things will never be the same, homes will be lost and I will be figuratively out on the streets.

I am not to say that lifelong homes don’t exist because they certainly do. But rolling with the changes of your life and accepting permanent lifestyle shifts may mean that it is time for a new home or just an additional home. Change is not to be feared.

Moving out of our homes — the places and situations we used to find comfort in — isn’t a bad thing. I think it is symbolic of our own mobility, adaptability and growth.

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It isn’t easy to snap out of the mindset of yearning for stability and suffering through the lack of it. However, I believe that my fear of being emotionally homeless, when I feel isolated and without a haven, has held me back from achieving deeper happiness and forced me to settle for treatment that I did not deserve.

I’ve found short-term homes — rental homes if you will — in the moments of my life. The moments of pure bliss and calmness keep me grounded. These homes make unfamiliar situations feel more manageable. These are the little reminders that make you feel reassured.

On a road trip with my friends over the summer, we sang our hearts out to “What’s Up” by 4 Non-Blondes. We must have sounded awful, but it did not matter to us. I felt so safe at this moment; the energy radiating from the music and the lovely people around me made me feel at home.

I didn’t know it then, but I’ve had homes that served me for years, but were never meant to be permanent. After some time, something feels different, almost hostile. These homes are rooted in people, as opposed to location.

In the first few weeks of college, when I feared I wouldn’t find any sense of belonging, I found friends that are the best people that I have ever met. We clicked immediately and any moment that I spend with them feels like home.

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I know this sounds corny, and it makes you want to roll your eyes, but we always laugh when we are together. Not just light laughter, full-on belly laughter that cannot be contained. I have experienced nothing like this before — we never get bored with each other. They make me so happy.

Even smaller instances can serve as homes, no matter how small or silly they are. For example, anytime I walk past someone smoking a cigarette or smell the scent of “Love Spell” perfume, I think of my mom and my earliest memories with her.

Anytime I see something or hear something about “The Flintstones,” I think of my dad and his stupid Dino the Dinosaur tattoo that makes my sister and I go ballistic with laughter.

When I make myself tea in the microwave just like my grandma does, it brings me back to all the time I spent with her growing up and the value that I place on our relationship.

I have homes I know will last forever, that are less nuanced or subtle than the ones previously mentioned.

I will always have a home with my family. I am so fortunate to have the funniest and smartest little sister ever. My dad is our rock. He is understanding and just as funny as my sister is. I know that there is nothing I could do that would make them love me less.

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As I have grown older, I have regained the sense of home that I found with my mom in my younger years. This was a home that I thought I lost, but I was mistaken. I just moved away from this home for some time. I lived elsewhere. But if something, someone or somewhere is home, you will always find your way back.

Ultimately, home isn’t always a physical place, as 39% of Americans do not feel at home where they live. A home is anywhere that you don’t have to fight to feel at ease.

It is of utmost significance to remind ourselves of the homes that we’ve had, the homes that we have grown out of, and the homes that we will cherish forever. Personally, this keeps my hopes up.

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Sonya is the assistant news editor of The Statesman. She is now a sophomore journalism major and has been a writer for the paper since the beginning of her freshman year. Sonya does not know what else to say about herself.

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