Brick by brick

It’s important for me to have a place to go to when I get sick; I have generalized anxiety disorder and depression, and I’m always on edge. To have a place that makes me feel grounded on the days when I feel like I don’t belong here is absolutely necessary.

For a long, long time, my house was my home. I could sit in my room and talk to myself about everything and nothing in order to figure out what was on my mind. I was calm in my own bed. My house was the place where I felt the most at home. When that changed, I was terribly lost.

My existing home suddenly became the place where I was constantly being challenged, provoked, and forced to the edge. The only thing I could think about was how badly I needed to move, but I couldn’t afford to and felt hopeless.

Rage, exhaustion, and anxiety followed me everywhere I went ­— but were especially hard to get away from in my own house where my abuser lived. This stage of my life was important because I needed to regain the feelings of contentedness and protection. I needed to return to the person I knew I was but no physical place felt right.

It took me years to realize I already had several other homes that I had been building all the while.

Homes don’t need to be physical; they can exist anywhere as long as they make you feel comfortable, safe, and at peace. As a result of trying to get healthier and spending all my time outside of my house, my friendships got stronger and I found myself able to create feelings of solace and home in my friends.

I credit my friends for saving my life — or at least my sanity — and that appreciation still continues every day. I built a family outside my biological one that created a sense of home everywhere I went.

Home is in Katie, seated in a 2004 Nissan Sentra parked by my old elementary school, without whom I wouldn’t have the unconditional love and support that brought me here today.

Home is in Ally, who has been privy to my ugliest sobs, hardest laughs, and most disgusting poop jokes, without whom I would be infinitely sad and boring.

Home is in Maia, a cool girl with a cooler head on her shoulders who taught me how to be critical and take no shit, without whom I would be much less confident and motivated.

Home is in Usman, who is probably the only person to witness the worst sides of me as I grew and healed but still texts me every time he falls in love with a cute girl passing by him on the train, without whom I would’ve been alone at prom and in a lot of other circumstances.

Human relationships are too often broken into binaries — friendships or romances. I have so many friends whom I think of as existing on a middle plane between the two: we are not in romantic love, but our love for each other is too special to be confined within the boundaries of platonic friendship.

These are romantic friendships involving an undeniable physical attraction between two people who don’t want to have sex or get married but just want be near each other all the time. These relationships are based on the pure admiration of another person’s charm and smile, existing without a drop of distrust or self-hating envy.

Romantic friendships exist in an unspoken, perhaps ineffable understanding that you would give anything for the other person without a second thought. People are amazingly kind to let you build a home in them.

What makes romantic friendships work so flawlessly is unequivocal reciprocation. We grow together and are still growing, hand in hand. We give to and take from each other, completely equally. They know the little things about me, and I know the same things in return about them.

They know why I call them as I’m walking home when it’s too dark outside. They know that I know every word to every episode of Phineas & Ferb. They know I have a weird phobia of fish. They know that my comfort food is garlic bread, specifically crazy bread from Little Caesar’s.

I know that there is nothing that Ally loves watching more than Mad Max: Fury Road; with Maia, it’s period pieces; with Katie, it’s the Halloween episodes of The Simpsons. I know that Ally would sooner cut off one of her toes than give up on another human being. I know how much Katie hates the volume of the radio or TV not being set to a multiple of five. I understand the patterns in conversations with Maia and know exactly what she means when she says, “You know?” I feel like, as much as two people can understand and love each other, we do.

Sometimes I’m still dangerously on the edge of my wits, looking over a spiraling mess of uncertainty, hatred, and sadness. If anyone can convince me to turn around and come home to them, it’s my friends: the people in whom I will always dwell and whom I will always let take shelter in me.

I hope that at some point, everyone finds a home like I did.