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Home is Where the Heart Is

Recognizing the importance of place.

The first thing we ask someone when we meet them, after their name, is where they are from, or the much more interestingly-phrased "where's home for you?" We ask because we recognize that the answer tells us something important about them.

My answer for "where are you from?" is Texas, but "where's home for you?" is a little harder. If home is where the heart is, then by its most literal definition, my home is wherever I am. The truth is, the location of your heart, as well as the rest of your body, does affect who you are. The differences may seem trivial (a new subculture means new friends, more open spaces make you want to go outside more), but they can lead to lifestyle changes that are significant. Memories, too, are cued by the physical environment. When you visit a place you used to live, these cues can cause you to revert back to the person you were when you lived there. The rest of the time, different places are kept largely separated in our minds. The more connections our brain makes to something, the more likely our everyday thoughts are to lead us there. But connections made in one place can be isolated from those made in another, so we may not think as often about things that happened for the few months we lived someplace else. Looking back, many of your homes may feel more like places borrowed than places you belonged, and while sometimes sifting through mental souvenirs of time there, in the scope of a lifetime, you were only a tourist.

No one is ever free from their social or physical environment. And whether or not we are always aware of it, a home is a home because it blurs the line between the self and the surroundings, and challenges the line we try to draw between who we are and where we are.

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