We sold our house this week. No, we’re not moving overseas again, not even across the country, in fact we may well end up living within walking distance of where we live now. We simply decided, for a number of reasons, that now is time to move from a house to condominium apartment.
Deciding to sell the house was probably one of the most difficult decisions we’ve made. But why? We’ve owned this house 26 years, but almost half that time we were overseas. We owned 4 other houses before it, and have rented 7 other homes since. And yet this house held a special place in our hearts, which made selling it seem akin to selling a family member.
The rationale side of me knew that we’d been perfectly happy in all the homes we’ve lived in. The shabby post-soviet apartment in Baku, the gleaming 5* luxury apartment in Dubai, a villa the size of an aircraft hangar and the tiny apartment where everything had to be stowed away like on a submarine, had all been “home” for a while. We cooked, entertained, pursued hobbies and had fulfilling and fun lives no matter where or what we’d lived in. So why did the thought of moving here in Canada break my heart?
A lot of soul searching later, I’ve come to the conclusion that, for us, it’s the years we weren’t there that made this house so special. It became a psychological safe harbor, an anchor, the place we knew we could always return to when culture shock, loneliness, or the stress of not knowing if or when we’d move again overwhelmed us. David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken in their book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds talk about “sacred objects” which help connect one part of a global nomad’s life with the next. Perhaps this house had become our sacred object. A place we knew we could always go back to, “home.” It would welcome us, we’d brew a steaming cup of tea and all would be well.
During the decision-making process, and even after the house was listed, tears were shed, although we knew our decision was the right one. But surprisingly, now the house is sold, we’re at peace. Perhaps because it’s been bought by a lovely retired couple who are moving to be close to their children and grandchildren who live a few doors away. Knowing we are passing the torch to immigrants (expats) like ourselves has helped. The house will be in safe hands.
Living overseas taught us that brick and mortar (or concrete and steel) don’t make a home. It’s the people within it and the life you build for yourself that matters. Home can be anywhere you are and is what you choose to make it.
Perhaps it’s fitting that the theme of the next Families in Global Transition Conference is “Finding Home.” It’ll be just in time for me as I transition yet again from one home to another.