One of the best things about our journey into unschooling has been the amazing relationships we have developed with people who challenge and inspire us. Few families have touched us as fully and deeply as the Higgins-McBroom family, whose example of living in passion and love has been a positive example for so many people. A few weeks ago, I offered to write guest blog posts for some of my friends, and Gail Higgins quickly accepted. Today, she published that post on her blog, Hummingbird Haven. Gail, Broc, Brenna and Logan - you guys shine so brightly for so many. Thank you!
Yesterday afternoon, I took - and remarkably passed - the Oregon State Driver's License Examination. In five to seven business days, I will have an official license from my seventh state: CT, MA, CA, HI, PA, TN and now OR. Since I first learned to drive in 1983, I have had the pleasure of living in 27 different places - one for each year, as it turns out.
So many of my early moves were due to burned bridges; out of options for making it 'work" in one locale, I picked up and moved somewhere else, hoping for a fresh start. Some of the moves were due to the military or other jobs. In fact, I could list and explain each one of the moves in a way that would make sense to even the most analytical mind.
But in truth, all of the moves were to some measure related to the fact that my heart was exploding with a passion to do something different with my life.
For me, living in one place was completely stifling. I never felt like I was being pushed away from a place due to people or circumstances; it was just that there were so many other places to go, and people to meet, and things to experience, that I could not justify staying in a place of relative safety and security while missing out on what life had to offer me. I loved having a roof over my head, but struggled with the concept of a single, solitary home; I simply wanted my home to be much larger than a house, much larger than a town. I wanted home to be less of a physical place, and more of an emotional one.
The idea of "home" is an intriguing one. Our culture is filled with references to home, be they pithy (be it ever so humble, there's no place like it), faux-inspirational (it's where your heart is), subdued (it's where you hang your hat), wistful (you can never go back again) or practical (it's where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.) For many of us, the sense of "home" is deeply rooted throughout our family histories; with all of the complexities of modern life, the idea of having a home to return to as a refuge is comforting at worst, rejuvenating at best. We like to think of home as the place where you will always be accepted, where things can be the way we want them to be, the one thing which we can control and upon which we can rely. Stability, in any form, can indeed be a good thing. Surrounding ourselves with things that are familiar, that provide us with good memories, can comfort us, inspire us, and keep us fairly sane.
In our family, however, we view things a bit differently. When I first met Ginger, I somehow sensed that she had a bit of a restless spirit. There was something about the gleam in her eye, the edge of excitement in her voice, that made me realize that a life spent with her would be a life of adventure. She lived life tangibly, and she viewed every experience - good or bad - as a necessary step on her journey toward being who she truly was. When I said "I do", I knew I was in for the experience of a lifetime. And what an experience it has been. We have moved, changed jobs, had children, lost friends, seen amazing sights, and essentially lived life through our senses. We have made a thousand decisions with our hearts, based on what feels right. At various times, we have also made "head" decisions in which our brains overruled our passions and interests. These decisions have always been right on paper, but rarely have felt right in practice. The heart is a mysterious, often elusive muscle that may steer us in directions that are unforeseen but rarely in directions that are wrong for us. By trusting that our hearts will lead us to what is right for us, we have lived a life of learning, laughing, and loving; not without challenge and troubles, mind you, but a life lived out loud. We have lived in numerous states, towns, and houses, but throughout all of our journeys we've had only one real home.
Our home is not a place with walls and couches and papers and entertainment centers. Our home is, simply, the way we live our life. Home is the abandon and trust through which we engage with our life. It is the spirit with which we learn, and experience, and grow. It is the peace with which we connect with the people around us, and where you are surrounded by things that comfort and challenge and intrigue us. It is the pursuit of the chance to be the happiest we have ever been, where we are the "us" we can be and the "us" we wish to be. Home may be a physical place for some, but for us home is a state of being, like a roller coaster with no real end, with our love as the car keeping us safe and our hearts as the track guiding us ever higher.
A home is - or, more critically, COULD be - a giant amusement park of your own design. The question is whether you want to design it with your head or with your heart. Designed with your head, an amusement park is likely to be similar to the parks you've actually visited; a few thrill rides like roller coasters, with some more subdued ones like carousels. There might be games, and shows, and food, and very short lines; there would certainly be no shortage of fun. But things would likely be be safe, too. There would be beginnings and endings, maps and hours, some sense of limitation in terms of size and scope, and rules about who could go on which ride.
A park designed with your heart, free of your own pre-conceived notions about the way things "should be", would likely look very different. Such a park would never close, and it would have no fences or borders. It would not need to cordoned off from the "real world", and would take up as much space as you could imagine. It would be filled with the rides you wanted, not because they seemed right, but because they were the rides that you enjoyed riding. It might have games and shows, but it might have activities that were completely different, activities you could fully participate in like making movies or music, blowing glass or flying kites. And oh, the roller coasters . . . coasters with no real ends, where you could get on or off wherever and whenever you pleased, that stretched for miles and wound through mountains and over water.
For us, the world of what could be, of learning and experiencing new things, is what gives us comfort and strength - and the courage to try and do more. The world of possibility is our refuge from a more regular, staid life. The world of possibility provides us with energy, memories, and inspirations that many people draw from a more traditional perspective on "home", but which for us emanates from the heart and from new places and experiences.
It could be that the old axiom of "home is where the heart is" is actually true. But I tend to think of it in just the opposite way: your heart is where your home is. Your heart may lead you in directions that are unfamiliar, uncomfortable, or scary. But it also will lead you in the direction of your passions, your interests, your wants and needs, and your truth. It may lead you to a new state, a new town, with new friends and experiences. But if you gain joy and comfort from experiencing what life has to offer through all of your senses, your heart may be the best home for you. Where you choose to live is only important in relation to how much that place feeds your soul.