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Dear Andrew W.K.,
How do you keep a positive frame of mind and a sense of connection when going through difficult times far away from home? I’ve been living abroad in Belgium for the past few years, and I’ve been feeling increasingly disconnected from my old life.
I’m wondering if you’ve had any difficult experiences while far away from home and whether you have any recommendations for keeping a positive attitude while far away from familiar territory?
Far Beyond Homesick
Dear Far Beyond Homesick,
I used to work with a man who had a very close relationship with his grandmother. His favorite place in the world was his grandmother’s house. When he was happy, he went to celebrate at his grandmother’s house. When he was sad, he went to be comforted at his grandmother’s house. And when he just wanted to feel like he belonged somewhere and get some perspective on his life, he would just sit on the back porch and quietly ponder the easy goodness of pure and uncomplicated things. He spent large amounts of time there as a child and even ended up living there as an adult, simply because there was no other place he’d rather be. He traveled a lot and went away for work for extended periods, but he always longed to be back at his grandmother’s house.
A few years ago, his grandmother died. She had lived a long and loving life, and her passing wasn’t unexpected. Her house was sold, and the new owners tore it down to build a bigger place. My friend was devastated by the loss of that house just as much as his grandmother’s death. He mourned for her and the house, but he especially mourned for the feeling of home that now seemed irretrievably lost. He mourned that feeling of security that came from a place where things made sense — a kind of reliable calm that he could count on no matter how crazy the rest of his life felt. He feared he would never again find a place that gave him such a profound sense of peace. That place was his home, and without it he felt lost.
I was with my friend when his grandmother died and he went through his struggles. And I told him what I’m about to tell you here: Home isn’t a place, home is a feeling. You especially realize this once a place is no longer there. When you can’t go there again, you have to move that place inside of yourself. And in the process of moving the outer world into your inner world, you realize it was already inside you all along.
In that way, there really is no place like home. There is no place or location or outer phenomenon that can provide as much security as the true home found in yourself. This is one of the many timeless lessons we are taught over and over again. This is what the archetypal journey represents — not the venturing-out or -away from oneself, but traveling deeper in. The Wizard of Oz illustrates this and many other elemental truths very beautifully. A place like “home” was never actually a place at all, but an internal experience, an inner understanding of essential love and truth. This depth of understanding may have been brought on by an encounter with a place or a person or other circumstance, but the power those things have over us is caused by the connection they make with our inner world.
I’ve lived in a lot of different places myself, many of which I’ve loved deeply and didn’t want to leave. I’ve traveled all over the place and have been away from home for most of the past twenty years. But I didn’t leave my home behind — I always took it with me. Every place I’ve ever lived became part of me. I’ve always been at home because I am my home.
And you are your home. You are home. Those places and experiences that seemed like they were happening to you — you were actually happening to them. Everything has always been occurring in the same place: inside you. The entire world of experience occurs internally. It never leaves you and you never leave it.
Constructing a home inside ourselves is one of our great life works. Cultivating an inner house of strength and calm that can allow us to feel at home no matter where we are or what we’re dealing with — this is our goal. And our experiences in life provide us with the tools and lessons and strengths needed to construct our home properly. The feeling of being yourself is being home. Stay strong and let your adventures in life bring you ever closer to yourself. Don’t be afraid. You will make it home. You’re already there.