I always thought I knew what home was. I grew up in the same place, the same town, the same house and with the same people. It felt right, and it felt safe. I knew the streets like the back of my hand, every ginnel, every park. I’d never left, I’d never moved. My life rotated around Preston and all that came from Preston, the people, the atmosphere, the traditions. Life was home and home was more than just the four walls where I was raised.
But when it came to choosing my university, I wanted out. The town, and the surrounding cities of Manchester and Liverpool had been explored. I had itchy feet and was desperate to get out and see more.
I knew that home would always be there, waiting and my parents would always be in that house. As I set off, heading 200 miles north, into halls, I knew that wouldn’t be ‘home,’ but it was exciting to leave. And I was right, halls wasn’t home. It was a busy flat full of strangers who had little in common except for that they were also somewhere squeaky, informal and crammed into extraordinarily high accommodation pricing.
But home was there in summer, winter, spring and sometimes autumn, and would always be welcoming with open arms. The feelings never change, and neither does my childhood room which sits, almost a perfect preservation of how I grew up. Coming back from halls, home was a warm comforting hug, of homecooked meals, family time and dog cuddles.
But when I moved into private accommodation, things changed. You had a whole flat to peruse, design and create your own version of home. I had views of the mountains from my bed, cosy blankets, infinite lamps and pieces of thrifted furniture that created a place where I genuinely wanted to be.
And home in Preston didn’t feel so much like home anymore. It felt claustrophobic and tight. I never understood what changed, or why it felt so different.
In retrospect, I’d found a home in Scotland. I knew the streets; I knew the locals. I knew where the best place for a pint was, where the best mac and cheese was located. I knew some slang; some mannerisms and I’d truly become besotted with Scottish living. The hills were bigger, the pathways were endless and there was everything around just waiting to be found.
And it wasn’t that Preston wasn’t a home anymore, it just felt different. New houses lined every street, every time I came home to a different café, a new scene that it wasn’t the town I grew up in anymore. There were too many people, the same walks, the same room. Life went at 20mph there and all the exploring was done.
I think home is a feeling, the sense of safety, security and overwhelming warmth you feel when you enter. It’s kicking off your shoes, lounging in your dirty clothes. Its the pleasure of comfort and happiness only achieved from being at home. And Preston wasn’t really that anymore.
I am grateful for that home, and I am grateful for the home I’ve created elsewhere. I know that maybe I’ll come back, and I will find my peace in England again, but the chances of this right now are slim. There is more to life than your hometown and no matter how far you go away, you will always feel at home if you make it. And if you fail, your hometown will always be waiting for you when you come back with open arms and a warm cup of tea.