A friend asked me recently, “When is a house a home?” She asked because she’s been living in the city for some time and is considering a move to the suburbs. She no longer feels “at home” in the city.
It’s an interesting question. One that I’ve never heard before, frankly. So, I’ve been thinking about “what makes for a home?”
For me, I break it down into four areas: region, city vs. suburb, the intangibles, and rituals/rewards.
I’ve moved around a lot in my life. For me, here have been my journeys:
- Indonesia to Brooklyn. Then, back to Indonesia. Back to Brooklyn when my mother became very ill. Then, to California. To New Haven for college.
- To NYC for my first job. To Boston for my next job, and then, business school. I lived “in the city” for both of those experiences.
- Singapore for a few years, with many holidays to see the region (we went to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Nepal). Then, back to Boston when we became pregnant with our 1st child. We rented an apartment out in the suburbs.
- We nixed an idea to move to Seattle for a job at Amazon.com. We went out there twice, though, to check it out.
- Took my 1st VC job and was encouraged to move to the Bay Area. We didn’t want to do that but for a stretch I was out there 80% of the time for work.
- Instead, we decided to settle long-term in the Boston area. We’ve been living here ever since.
As I look at that list, I’m actually surprised by how many moves I’ve done. And, as I peruse that list, I find myself clearly knowing where I’ve felt “at home” and where I’ve not.
For me, I love the Boston area. I love the youthful energy in this area, given the 40+ colleges. I love the sports fanaticism. I like that I can drive north for a few hours and be in incredible ski country, or drive south and hit some cool beaches. I love that you can chat with an erudite Harvard prof. or a new immigrant within minutes of each other. I’ve always felt at home around here. It’s an awesome place.
CITY VS. SUBURB
I’ve lived in the Back Bay and the South End and really enjoyed it. But, we moved further out for family reasons. We wanted more space for the money and we wanted a plethora of school choices for our children.
But, we decided not to move too far away and be dis-connected from Boston/Cambridge. I love to eat out and I wanted a short commute for work. So, we drove around to various suburbs and tried to visualize what life would be like.
In the end, we picked a suburb that is “in the middle.” We’re only 15 minutes away from the city but are far enough out to feel like we’re not away from it all. We were fine with a small yard. I didn’t want to be too far from Fenway Park! It’s been absolutely great.
I think a house becomes a home when you feel “at rest.” It could be the flow of the rooms somehow works for you. It could be a great view out the back window. Or, it could be awesome neighbors. Whatever the root cause, it needs to be a place where, when you enter the door, the stress goes down rather than up.
Now, of course, family life isn’t always like that. When you open the door, you may find squabbling children. You may find a kids’ art project that is out of control. But, the “hit rate” has to be positive. 80% of the time, IMO, entering your house must create pleasure, repose and satisfaction. You must feel “at rest.” If not, there’s something wrong.
RITUALS AND REWARDS
For me, “home” is a set of familiar rituals and “rewards.” I’m trying more and more to weave in regular rewards in my life.
So, on this early Saturday morning, I’ve brewed some awesome coffee from Montana. I’m looking forward to reading the newspapers. I may play a quick 9 holes of golf. I am pumped to read that the Sox again beat the Yankees.
I’m looking forward to getting bagels and Challah, which my kids love. I like having something awesome for them to eat when they wake up and come downstairs. A small reminder of Christmas morning. And, being a “good provider” really means much to me.
I’ll be cooking dinner and am hoping the food will help alleviate the cold symptoms that some of my children have. I’m also cooking dinner for a friend, whose father-in-law just passed away. I’m looking forward to dropping off that meal, which will be filled with love and compassion for their loss.
I’m looking forward to watching the Notre Dame-Michigan football game. I’m eager to see how the Sox do tonight. I’m assuming they’ll make it into the playoffs, and I’m looking forward to those intense and chilly games at Fenway.
In other words, I’m happy to be home.