Week 5: Home
(xīn nián kuài lè)
Tuesday marked the beginning of a new year in the Chinese lunar calendar. With its roots in the honouring of household and heavenly deities and ancestors, Chinese New Year is a time of togetherness. It is when most 游子’s (yóu zi, literal translation — wanderer) or, people who live far from home, go out of their ways to be home with family, wherever home is.
And after spending the last five Chinese New Year’s abroad in Melbourne, I am finally celebrating the Year of the Tiger, not quite yet at home, but at the same time, the most at home I’ve felt in a while.
I’ve often pondered the meaning of “home” while I was abroad, albeit more towards the end of my time there than the beginning. I used to ask myself — if you’ve spent so much time in this city, 30% of your life, shouldn’t this place feel familiar, shouldn’t it be home?
What I noticed over time is that you won’t miss home as much when life is smooth sailing. But when the ride gets bumpy, more often than not, you’d wish there was a place or a person you can return to, to know what you are fighting for.
I’ve always put off moving home because the bumps in the road have not been that difficult to recover from. I had a rather strong support structure in the form of amazing friends, co-workers, and mentors. But when the pandemic hit, it became clear as day that it was time to move.
So, what is home? Where is home?
Doing a Google search returned different results. But one that stuck with me was the definition of the word “home” in verb form —
“(of an animal) return by instinct to its territory after leaving it.”
Surely, to return by instinct would imply a sense of belonging, a sense of safety, a sense of comfort?
I don’t think there is a singular definition of the word “home”. Some move across the world, from the country they grew up in, to call another place home; some move across the street. Some feel at home in a completely different culture; others gravitate towards a sense of familiarity their whole lives. And some like coming home to a lighted house and food cooking on the stove; while others like coming home to solitude.
I guess, for me, home is Selangor (Malaysia), where I grew up, where my parents, sibling, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins reside.
Home is where my values align with that of the community I live in.
Home is having a reason to keep fighting when life gets tough.
And, home, is where I can return to after a long day and still be loved when I’m battered and torn.
“If you know you’re going home, the journey is never too hard.” — Angela Wood
It is too early to say if this is my last move in life. But for now, after spending the last 8 years wandering, it’s great to be home.