the following is an interview with my friend alli as part of my home project. we became close friends as similarly closeted queerdos at our catholic high school in portland, where alli still lives today.
Who are you and where are we?
I’m Alli and we’re in Portland, Oregon.
Do you have a place you consider a home of origin?
Yeah, I guess so. The Bay Area in California.
What do you think of when you think of that home of origin?
You know how when you’re driving on the freeways of the suburbs around the bay, the retaining walls on the side have greenery that grows on them, but it’s usually always brown and dead? That always reminds me of home. I remember when I moved to Portland the first thing I noticed when we were driving up here was the freeways were different.
When I think of my home of origin, I think of my childhood, the way I grew up, and the way home was talked about as a child. But now when I think of home I think of it as more of an abstract feeling as opposed to a place.
Can you tell me about that transition of the idea of a childhood home and how that’s talked about, versus how you think of a home now?
Once you start being given the freedom to choose your own home, and create your own home, you realize — I should say, I realize, I’m in control of what home is to me. As opposed to being a child when you don’t pick your home, or decide what the definition of home is. When you’re a kid everything is so literal, right? Every word has a definition, and the definition of home is the place that you live.
So, what is home to you as you are choosing your own home?
It’s hard to put into words. I call where I live my home and I feel like that’s my home. I’m a nester so it’s important to me to have a place to retreat to. But when I’m with people or surrounded by things that put me at ease, I don’t feel like I’m away from home or missing home.
Tell me about the ways that you are building home now, either abstractly or literally.
I think I’m subconsciously always working to build and create spaces where I feel safe, whether that means physical spaces or just spaces in my heart. I correlate safety with home. But it’s hard to think about how and what I’m actually doing to build that because I’m doing it so subconsciously.
Because certain people were in my life, I was feeling I had to present myself in a certain way and be a certain type of person around them. I have recently weeded all those people out. That’s allowed me to sink in deeper into where I am, which makes me feel like my feeling of home has spread out further because I feel safer in more places.
What do you think makes you feel safe?
Being in a familiar place and being around people I know will keep me safe is important. I’ve lived here for so long, I take for granted how important the time that I’ve lived here plays into my perception of Portland being my home now. It’s familiar, and I know it, and I know the places where I can go and see people to feel welcomed and wanted. I feel home in Portland because I know where those places are and I have enough of them to feel comfortable and safe here.
Can you imagine yourself leaving and making home somewhere else?
I would like to believe I can pick up my life and go make roots somewhere else, but I really don’t have any interest in it. The only reason I would like to want that is because there’s a little bit of ‘what ifs’ — like what if that is gonna be better than here, and fear of missing out. But really, the thought of leaving terrifies me. That’s part of why I want to want to go too, because it’s terrifying, and I want to feel like that’s okay, and I’m stronger than this feeling of fear.
So regardless of whether you live here always or go somewhere else, are there ways you envision any sort of future home?
Well I know that Eva, my wife, will be with me wherever I go. I feel like it’s so corny and I’m conforming to what we’re told about love in movies when we’re kids. As scared as I am to leave if we have to leave, if we go together, we’re gonna be fine. ‘Cos we have home in each other. We’ve moved to three different houses in this neighborhood and every time we move, we create the same feeling of coziness. People tell us that when they come into our home. I think the home feeling is about us and what and who we choose to surround ourselves with.
The one question I’m asking everyone is, in what ways are you seeking home, and in what ways have you found home?
I’m quite literally in the process of looking for a house. Not a home, but a house. The intent is so Eva and I can start a family, and in that we are hoping to grow our home.
I feel like I’ve found home. Sometimes you can meet somebody and you’ve never met them and you feel at home with them. I had an interaction with someone I met a couple months ago. We’ve only hung out twice but both times, it’s like we’ve been friends for so long. It’s interesting you can find home in people. But I’m not sure I’m looking for that. It’s so nice whenever you meet people and feel at home with them, but I feel like I’m so content with where I’m at that I prevent myself from looking. A friend told me they knew someone I’d get along with really well, and they asked if they could introduce us, and I said, no that’s alright, I’ve got enough people around, I don’t want to carve out space for anybody else, you know? In that way I’m rejecting something that could possibly be. I don’t know that I am seeking home because I feel like I’ve already found home.
So it feels like a complete journey to you in a way?
I mean, no, but complete enough for me to feel comfortable being here and calling where I’m at home. I’m plateauing. Maybe not staying forever. (laughs).
That’s one way to look at it.
I mean, I’m not afraid of the word plateauing. I think people think plateauing is a bad thing and I can see thats how it’s intended to be used, like being stuck. But I don’t see it that way. I see it as being comfortable where you’re at. I’ll push off again at some point. But I’m happy to plateau. I feel like I’ll go up again some more. Maybe I’ll go back down again, who knows. I’ve got so much more life to live. This is not going to be my home forever, this feeling or this place. But it’s super great to be here right now.
Is anything else coming up for you in this conversation?
I’m interested in this resistance I’m feeling in declaring that home is so engrained in the life I’m building with my partner. I’m so happy being where I’m at, and I wouldn’t change anything, but I feel like part of me that wants to pull away from saying what I know— the person who wrote, like, “A Walk to Remember” would be so happy to hear me saying. Just so conforming! But it’s true and I’m not gonna feel shamed for that. But it’s funny to want to feel like home is more just about me. It’s empowering to feel like I am my own home, it’s me and I’m creating it. But I’ve always been somebody who does better alongside somebody else. So I’m okay to admit that my home is paired with Eva’s.
I mean, you guys are also making your life your own. Just because it has these elements of the ‘white picket fence’ doesn’t mean it’s not yours.
It just all ties in to conformity. I’m conforming to the get married, buy a house, have a baby life path. But then in so many other ways I feel so non-conforming to what society wants us to see. But on this like path of how things are supposed to happen, I’m nailing it.
I think you’re nailing it.
I mean — every night when I go to bed, I smile, and every morning when I wake up, I smile. So I feel like that’s a pretty good way to live.