Gabriela Herstik
March 24, 2017 11:38 am
Alexandra Herstik

I’ve always struggled with the idea of “home.” As both a first-generation American and someone who grew up moving around a lot, I’ve never quite felt attached to any place I’ve lived. And although I struggled with where I fit in, moving around and not having a singular place of my own has taught me a lot about what home is.

Home is a self-defined place where you can return for grounding, comfort, and safety. It, hopefully, includes warm meals, lots of TLC, and a community of people who support you. The thing I’ve come to realize is that each place you live teaches you something. You take a little part of it with you wherever you go, and if you choose to take the good, you can create your own version of home.

My mom is a Mexican Jew, and my father’s Israeli. My twin sister and I were born in San Diego, where we lived until we were two, and we then moved to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is where I would visit my grandma every Sunday, and where I have my “OG” friend group: a group of 5 families who I’ve known since I was two. My friends are like my siblings and I call their parents mom and dad because they pretty much are. I have always felt a deep tie to the hills and magick of California. So when my parents did something nearly unimaginable to any sun lovin’ California girl — aka moving us across the country to Buffalo, New York — I was devastated.

Although New York may be the epicenter of fashion in the U.S., Buffalo most definitely is not. Winter meant three feet of snow, and nothing to do except go to Canada on the weekends.

Moving was incredibly hard for me. It was the first time I ever felt torn away from my loved ones. Although we made an effort to visit California once a year, leaving was absolutely horrible. I would sob for hours, begging my parents not to go back to Buffalo. This was the first time I actively recognized that I wasn’t “home.” But there is a silver lining.

Buffalo, although vaguely traumatizing, was absolutely beautiful. We had half an acre of land and in winter, we’d have deer walking through the snow in our backyard. Playing in the creek behind where we lived was my first introduction to earth magick. The schools were great, I had great friends, but after three years my family left and moved to Atlanta.

I was ten and going into the 5th grade when I moved to the Deep South. To say things were different was an understatement. We lived in Johns Creek, a suburb 45 minutes north of Atlanta. Johns Creek was fine. I spent middle school and high school there, and I made some of my best friends in the entire world there. The suburbs are pretty much the same anywhere, but what stood out to me was Atlanta. 

As soon as I was old enough to drive, I spent almost every weekend in the city. Atlanta is an interesting mix of cultures. It feels open-minded, but it still has a southern sort of charm. Although my connection to my “home” of Johns Creek wasn’t really there, Atlanta was the first city that felt like my own. Junior and senior year of high school were colored by going to shows at the Masquerade, driving around Little Five Points and East Atlanta Village, and discovering the nooks and crannies of a city that was beautiful, inviting, dark and scary — all at once. 

Atlanta always felt like a strange dichotomy and that’s why I loved it.

When it was time for college, I decided to go to the University of South Carolina. I ended up there with my twin sister, since we both had to stay within five hours driving distance of our home in Georgia (per our parents request). USC was beautiful, but it wasn’t the most liberal. Living there taught me more about being true to myself than anything else in my life.

Navigating the waters of a southern city when you’re a Jewish Mexican Witch with half her head shaved and loud personal style isn’t easy. I stood out like a sore thumb. It quickly became obvious that Columbia, where USC is located, wasn’t home — but that’s okay, because I didn’t need it to be. The thing is, after four years there (and two in the cutest apartment with a magical balcony), even Columbia started to feel like home. Living in a smaller city meant a sense of safety and simplicity. It was comfortable, and maybe that’s why I never wanted it to be home.

Spring semester of my junior year of college, I decided to spend a semester at the London College of Fashion. This was another one of the best choices I’ve ever made. Being across the world from nearly everyone I knew taught me about self-reliance, confidence, and introspection.

London is an incredible city, but it is also British. You don’t make eye contact with people on the streets there and talking to people in random public places is a rare occurrence. Although it’s still one of my favorite cities, it never felt like ME. But even there, my cramped flat (that was meant to accommodate four people but accommodated five) felt more like home than Georgia.

The summer before I left for London, my parents approached my sister and me about moving back to San Diego. Although they anticipated disappointment, we both replied with a resounding cry of happiness. Atlanta was great, but we were both ready to get back to a more receptive environment where we actually had friends and family.

Two years ago yesterday, when I was in London, my parents sold my childhood home in Georgia. Although I didn’t anticipate it, I remember getting that text and sobbing.

I came home from London a month and a half later, to an apartment that we’d be living in until my parents officially moved back to San Diego in July. My childhood home had been sold and I would be heading back to Columbia until the semester began. I spent my senior year of college almost positive I would graduate and move to New York.

I had spent a few weeks in NYC, interning after my stint in London. And more than any other city I have ever been in, New York fit me. It’s loud, overwhelming, romantic, disgusting, ridiculously beautiful, and constantly evolving; it felt like me. My parents wanted my sister and me to live in Los Angeles, but I was dead set on New York. I always said the only way I’d move to Los Angeles was to work for Vivienne Westwood.

So, when I got a PR internship with the designer, I realized I had to move. And that meant I had to figure out one thing: Was I moving back home?

I hadn’t lived in L.A. for over a decade, but my parents were there, my family was there, and suddenly so was I. My sister and I ended up living together in Studio City, ten minutes away from the house we’d visit my grandma in every Sunday, where my dad grew up. The bookstore down the street was the movie theatre he used to go to. My folks are also only three hours away, instead of a cross-country, four-hour flight away (which is great, since I hate flying). I’ve been here for eight months, and I’m still not quite sure if I’m home.

I’m not sure where home is — except that it’s in me. Something I’ve realized recently is how easy it is for me to adjust to wherever I’m living.

But regardless, every city I’ve lived in has taught me something about myself and about what “home” means. What I learned is that immersing yourself in your city, finding support in those you care about, being honest with yourself, and recognizing safety in your own body is huge. And even though we’re constantly told that “home is where the heart is,” doesn’t that mean we’re always home in ourselves?

There’s always a silver lining, and for me that meant moving around and always feeling like an outsider gave me the chance to learn how to make friends and to be confident in myself. Moving around taught me that I can be grounded from anywhere; whether it’s London, the Deep South, or magical California.

My mom and dad always apologize for the fact we moved so much, but I always tell them it’s made me who I am, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. 

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