Wilton Warrior Words — Student asks where is her real "home?"

Home is

“Home is where the heart is:” a cliche said throughout every high school graduation movie.

“Home” has confused me from an early age; I was born in London, then around age 2, my family moved to the Philippines to be closer to my mom’s family. No memories of London have stuck with me, but I remember living in the hot Philippine air and swimming in the pool at the family house on Mango Drive. Love and spirit from me, my eight cousins, and brother energized the town we lived in; eating pancit, barely speaking Tagalog, and wreaking havoc amongst my titos, titas, Lolo and Mamita were part of the daily routine along with sweating and crying from tripping on the sidewalk. The culture and I were one and I knew nothing but that. The Philippines became my home.
My family moved away from my home when I was 6. At such a young age the term culture shock was not in my vocabulary, but I definitely felt it during my first couple months in this town. I learned about fluff balls that fall from the sky during winter, weird accents, a lack of Filipino food (especially cheese ice cream), the absence of a beach, and the worst affair: boredom. Contrasting from the loud screams of children running through fields annoying their parents, Wilton was null. The disappearance of a piercing, yet harmonious, orchestra of my cousins impacted my overall energy and confused me. Slowly but surely, as kindergarten and my childhood began, I adapted to my surroundings. My accent shifted from Filipino to American, my favorite ice cream changed to Swamp, I ate fewer mangoes and more blueberries, and I made new, very different-looking friends. The fresh green grass, rich pine tree smell, and cool winter air replaced the smells of food, beach, and smelly cousins. Wilton, Connecticut, became my home and culture.
Years have passed and I am now 18 and a graduating senior. I have lived in Wilton for 12 years and experienced growing up as an American teenager in an American school with American traditions like prom, Fourth of July fireworks, barbecues, and red solo cups. Wilton has completely influenced my life from my vocabulary, personality, relationships, to my outlook. My home is still Wilton, Connecticut — but for how long?
My mom moved to California a year and a half ago while I stayed in Wilton to complete high school. This September I begin a gap year of writing, traveling, and learning starting in France. But then when I return next May, what will I do? I can move to California or stay in Wilton. Wilton has fulfilled and exceeded my quota of a childhood home, and I think I am ready for a new location; but am I actually ready? I am ecstatic to experience what is beyond Connecticut, but what about the friends I have made? The memories in Orem’s, Miller-Driscoll, Cider Mill, Middlebrook, the high school, my friend Kate’s house, my house…? How can I leave that behind and start from scratch in a new town full of strangers and differences? Where do I belong? Where will my home be?
I try to understand that “home is where the heart is,” but my heart is in so many places and will continue to be in so many more as my life progresses. It is an uncomfortable feeling not having a definitive home and clear answers; all my life I have had a place to call and live at “home.” And now that title is blank.
Right now, “home” is ambiguous and unlimited. It is both freeing and scary. I wish I knew the answers to my worries, but someday I will figure it out; I am excited for that day. I am excited to experience new cultures, new people, and new places from around the world and find new homes.
Leaving my homes like Wilton and the Philippines is distressing and wearisome, but there is no rule for how many homes I can have, and I always know my heart will lead me back to wherever they are.
Teena Moya was a senior at Wilton High School. She shared this column with five classmates.