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To Build a Home

Home: it’s a word that means something a little different to everyone. Sometimes it can be linked to a smell or a taste. Maybe it’s where your family resides. Maybe you have multiple places you call home. There are dozens of songs written about it. Even if our own definitions are slightly different, we can probably agree: home is familiar, home is comfort, home is something we are all searching for if we don’t already have it.

When I moved to New York City from Washington, D.C. after graduation last summer, I was joyously uprooting to begin my next adventure. New York had always been “the dream” for me during college; I had gotten restless in D.C. and felt ready for a change. What I hadn’t anticipated was months of transition; during my first 9 months of living in in the city, I moved 4 times, lived in 3 different boroughs, and started 2 jobs. I didn’t hang a single poster or buy a real piece of furniture until committing to a place in December (for context, I made the move in mid-May).

I finally settled in Brooklyn, signing an 18 month lease with two of my best friends from college. I was then impatient to make a life for myself; there were times I wished I could just pick up a box of “Insta Home” from Target. In it you would find a customized arrangement just for you: here are some pictures for your wall, a list of the best bars and restaurants within walking distance, the contact info for some fun new neighborhood friends, and all the decorations you need for your housewarming party. And don’t forget about the instruction manual — if you follow these steps, you’ll have a home in two weeks.

Unfortunately, “Insta Home” doesn’t exist (however, if someone is looking to launch a Birchbox-style start up, I’ll invest). Instead, you have to figure out how to build home for yourself. This takes time and patience (two traits that I have to actively exercise), and even after six months of settled, I’m still building (although I’m closer than I was in December). Here are the things I’ve discovered that have helped make Brooklyn home for me:

  • finding the nearest grocery stores and figuring out which are good for what items
  • joining the YMCA, the cheapest and most convenient gym option in my area
  • planting an herb garden and tomato plants in my backyard
  • eating out in the neighborhood once a week
  • exploring the nearest attractions like the botanical gardens, Prospect Park, and the Brooklyn Museum

I have also realized this: there will never be an On/Off switch for home. I think it is something that you work up to gradually, and once it’s built, you won’t even consciously realize it. It sneaks up on you until one evening you’re standing in your backyard, drinking rosé with your friends, and you get a little thought in your head that says “Yes! I am home!”

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