“part of having a home is about being nurturing in a way that sustains you.” alex on home

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 7.36.03 AM.pngthe following is an interview with my friend alex as a part of my home project. i met alex several years ago on twitter (where she tweets under the moniker @perverted_creep) and we conducted this interview in austin, texas, where she’s lived for the past several years.

What’s your name, and where are we today?

I’m Alex Link. We’re in Austin, Texas at Secret Beach.

What is a place you consider your home of origin?

Chicago, I guess. But I’ve always felt my real home of origin is California. I was born in Santa Monica. My parents were living there because my dad was getting his master’s degree at Pepperdine. The story goes, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake freaked my mom out a lot. Once my dad finished grad school they moved to Illinois, where my dad’s family is from and where my mom spent a good portion of her adolescence.

It sounds like you felt connected to California in spite of moving to the midwest at a very young age, and I’d like to hear more about what pulls you there and makes you feel like that’s your home. 

I always have loved the ocean. I love the sunny warm weather. That’s something you don’t get a whole ton of growing up in the midwest. My family was just in Chicago for for eighteen years until my parents divorced, when me and my brother and sister were in our 20s. When I was a teenager I wasn’t getting along with my parents and I felt stifled by my life. I just wanted to get to California. I wanted to get as far away as possible.

When you think about home, are there sights, smells, sounds, feelings, sensory memories that come up for you?

When I think about home, I tend to think of the kitchen in my childhood home. That was the place that we spent a lot of time in. We had family dinners every night. The alternate entrance to our house was through the kitchen, where you’d go in if you were familiar with the house.

How do you feel when you think about being in that kitchen?

It brings up a lot of painful memories. I was doing EMDR — eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It’s a therapeutic technique that targets past memories and explores them with the goal of resolving trauma associated with that, and re-orienting problematic beliefs that arise from those memories. I did a lot of work in EMDR surrounding two specific memories that had their focal points in that kitchen space. I see that kitchen as a place that says ‘home’ to me, but also makes me feel like home wasn’t ever really my place. I always have felt displaced from the concept of home, because I’ve never felt super at home in what was ostensibly my own home as a child.

It seems like you’ve been doing a lot of intentional thinking and healing from that. I’m wondering how addressing that feeling of displacement has manifested in your life today in your relationship to home.

I’m still looking for my real home and finding pieces of it on my journey. I think home is something we create for ourselves through the things we take with us. Finding [my partner] Trevor and making a home with him has been therapeutic because it’s allowed me to think of a new way to approach home and family, another word that’s closely associated with home. I still feel restless and nomadic and like I’m trying to find my place. It’s not a specific location I’m looking for, but rather a confluence of feelings, space, and comfort — creating a place that is a source of respite and comfort when other places aren’t.

I’d love to hear your most hopeful vision of home, whether that’s a really amorphous thing described by feelings or a physical space you can tangibly imagine.

I want to have a house that has enough space where people can feel comfortable just coming by. I’ve always dreamed of having a really open home to people who need a place to hang out or want to go somewhere to feel comfy for a while. I want to make a place where people can feel the way that I never really felt. I want to have a welcoming space that creates community and that people know they can go to if they need help or if they just need a break or a kind word or a meal.

It sounds like a lot of your vision of home has to do with providing a home space for others, even if it’s a temporary one.

Yeah, that’s something that’s really important to me. I haven’t figured out exactly how to do that yet. I’m still taking care of a lot of my own shit. I don’t know if I want to have kids, but I’m sort of preparing myself to become a parent. What that means to me is to be able to be giving of myself in a way that is mutually nurturing. A lot of my life I’ve been giving of myself in a way that exhausted and depleted me, and I think part of having a home is about being giving and caring and nurturing in a way that sustains you and revitalizes you.

I think that’s really important, for relationships to be mutually nourishing. As we were talking about earlier, you said you spent much of your life caregiving in ways. As you’re going through this process of figuring stuff out for yourself, what have you come up with in terms of how you can have a home that is more mutually nurturing?

I feel like that dream is still really far off for me. Part of that vision includes me being older and a bit more settled, you know? I still feel like I’m not that at all. But when I think about spending time with you or my friends who I feel close to even though we don’t live in the same space, I realize the internet is my home in a lot of ways. The ways the internet has facilitated me cultivating long term relationships with friends, even when there’s lapses in communication — that’s the way I envision having my home in physical space, as well.

It seems like that would provide a sort of consistency when a lot of factors in your life might not be consistent as far as where you’re living or what you’re doing — having that way of staying connected.

I want people to know they can always count on me for a spot to stay, or a weed to smoke, or just to hang out and talk for a while. I definitely envision my home as being a space of constant conversation, and not just drunken small talk or shooting the shit. Trevor is always great at digging deep. I admire that about him. He has been a positive presence in my life and in the lives of people who’ve come into contact with him.

Frequently when people come to our home they tell us they feel very comfortable, like it’s an environment where they don’t feel like they have to be anyone other than themselves. That’s been hard for me, to feel like I can be myself at home. It’s hard to feel like you can be yourself anywhere when you’re not quite sure who you are or you have a lot of things from your past that are telling you not to be who you are.

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alex & trevor at secret beach: a “cornily over-serious photo” that alex jokes might one day be their christian folk album cover.

It sounds like Trevor is an inspiring factor for creating and being in the home you want to be in. I’d love to hear more about that, and other forms of inspiration that fuel you and inspire you to help make the home you want to be in.

He definitely inspires me because he doesn’t shy away from the stuff that’s below the surface, and he’s taught me that the things that are going on below the surface are often what need the most attention because they can be the hardest to get at. He’s really great at understanding people. I feel like I have often let my fears about what people think of me distract from really connecting with people.

And it seems like connecting with people is a focal point of what you hope for in your home. I’d like to ask you the one question I’m asking everyone, which is: in what ways are you seeking and making home, and in what ways have you found home?

One way that I’m seeking home is that we have active plans to move to California. I feel like it’s more of a place for us than anywhere else. As far as already finding home, since I’ve been with Trevor for the past several years, I’ve been able to get in touch with who I really am in a way I’ve never thought I would be able to do. A big part of having an understanding of home is having a space inside yourself that carries that understanding where you can feel comforted and whole.

I associate that feeling a lot with God. My religious faith has been a source of a lot of comfort and understanding of my place in the world. I haven’t found my spiritual community yet, but my personal relationship with God and Jesus helps me feel like I have a spiritual home. It provides me with a huge sense of peace.

You’re the first person I’ve talked to who’s talked about both the internet and God as being homes, and those both seem like interesting and important places for you personally to find home, because those are things you can have pretty much anywhere you go.

They are! I need relationships like that, where no matter where I go I can still carry them with me. I feel unsettled in a lot of ways. I think part of that is growing up as a queer kid in a straight world, you often don’t feel like you have a place.

How has your queerness impacted your relationship with home?

I was in the closet for such a long time. In a way, being bisexual makes it easier to stay in the closet, because you can get along well enough as a ‘straight’ person, and all the ways that people talk about bisexuality and all of the tropes about being fake or indecisive, so I just ignored it for a really long time. I treated it like it was a personality trait or a matter of preference, like liking a band. Once I started really confronting my feelings about my own gender identity and sexuality, that was when I had to start thinking about a lot of other stuff too. It brought up a lot, and it’s taken me a long time to sift through all that and decide to be real about who I am.

What else has come up for you in this conversation about home?

I really like the song “This Must Be the Place” by Talking Heads. (singing) Home, that’s where I want to be, but I guess I’m already there…

Home can be wherever you are if the feeling is right.

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