Every day, I am swarmed with thoughts about home and where I belong from living in so many different places across the globe. I struggle with knowing what to call home and where I belong. Is home where my heart is or my body? I realize an important aspect of the home for me includes peace and confidence inside myself knowing who I am first and foremost-I am surrounded by those whom I love and who love me back. It is the people that make up a home and the people that matter most.
Adopted as a baby girl from China, my life began on a unique journey right from the beginning as an omen for the future. After my adoptive parents got me from China when I was eleven months old, they took me back to Minnesota in America where we lived together until I turned five. During that time, my parents and I went back to China to get my baby sister! Our family was complete!
Afterward, we moved to a suburb of Illinois where my dad went back to college for his graduate degree at Wheaton College. This experience of moving highlights my first recollection of hardships that followed the move, one of which included leaving behind my best friend, Iris. I missed her a lot. I missed going over to her house to watch movies, playing with Play-Dough, and spending time together!
After living in Illinois for three years, my parents made a monumental decision that impacted my life the most, in my opinion. We were moving to Israel! I did not care at that point where I was going as long as I was with my family. I was still too young to fully grasp the concept of moving away. I grieved less than when we left Minnesota since the friends we made in Illinois were not as close to me as the friends I had in Minnesota.
The next three and a half years of my life in Israel was where I did a lot of my growing up while I was eight, nine, and ten. My mom home-schooled me along with some other American moms who also home-schooled their kids. We got together every Tuesday for a co-op. I also met my second-best friend, Barry, in Israel. He lived in the same neighborhood as us, so his family and my family became close. My fondest memory of him occurred every Saturday morning, in which my dad would walk my sister and I to the park, and we would all play together for hours on end. We would only stop for lunch because we had to. Then we would return to the park and play through the afternoon. The parks in Israel were fantastic! Every child’s dream of a playground mixed in with the ability to imagine and pretend.
Israel became my home. I put down roots and made friends. It was home during my pivotal elementary years as well. I became emotionally attached to the place as well as to the familiar taste of shawarma and falafel, the smell of Jewish men smoking in the market, the feel of the crowded buses, the sound of the mosque - the call to prayer, the candles in the windows for Hannukah, the empty streets for Yom Kippur, and the soldiers that would commonly walk around the streets protecting their beloved country.
When my parents told me, we were moving back to the States, moving was still not a huge concept I could grasp, but I did understand I had to leave behind my friends. Israel had been home for three and a half years of my ten years of life. We went back to Arizona to stay with my mom’s parents. We were there for six months as my parents searched for jobs. When my parents told me, they were considering moving to Malaysia, I did not know what to say. My parents took a job offering at Dalat International School. To move again to a new place with new people, new food, and a new school was incomprehensible. I did not even know where Malaysia was on the map.
When we arrived at the Penang airport, the air was hot, stuffy, and humid. We were exhausted from travelling on top of taking in new smells and new faces. Our host family drove us to our new apartment in the middle of the night. Shortly after they left, my sister and I went right to sleep as we were excited to see what the morning brought.
After adjusting my thinking about how a home can be more than just a location, the definition of home to me is the place where the people live who have spoken into my life, helping shape me into my best self.
I still struggle with knowing what to call home and where I belong. Is home where my heart is or my body? What if my heart is in more than two places? In November of 2017, my parents told me we will move back to Israel in July. The people of Penang and Dalat International School are my home. I am going to have to leave it all behind. As I go through emotions of shock, sadness, grief, anger, and helplessness, I struggle to pull my heart away from this place I love so dearly and the people who mean so much to me. No matter where my heart ends up, I will never forget the people who have challenged me in so many ways, helping me grow and learn, and the legacy they have left in my heart.View other winners