Home for the Holidays

Andrew Valdez
4 min readDec 25, 2023

After five years, nine months, and a handful of days, New York feels like home. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed living here. I mean, how could you not? This city is infectious; the sites, sounds, the smells… Not gonna front, the smells aren’t great. For me, there have been so many reasons to call this city home and yet it hasn’t been for five years, nine months, and a handful of days. So why does it feel like home all of a sudden? What’s different?

To answer these questions, I guess we should start by answering another. Why today? As I write this, in the midst of the Christmas season, today is really no different from the last. I woke up, had a work call, went to school, tried to compete with TikTok for my class's attention, went home and tried to work, napped instead, and woke up just in time to go to a friend’s house for dinner. Pretty average day and yet, in the midst of it, I realized something profound.

It hit me during my drive home from my friend’s holiday party, belly full of latkes. Maybe it was the strangely delicious combination of apple sauce and fried potato pancakes, or maybe it was the perfectly synced green lights that led me home. Whatever it was, this feeling came from nowhere. That same feeling that I’ve only had one other time in my life, in a desert thousands of miles away from Brooklyn, no less. I felt at home.

As out of the blue as this feeling was, there is a logical explanation for it. Turning right down my block, I realized that home is less about where you are and more about the qualities that make it special. For me, those qualities are comfort, family, and purpose. Comfort is easy enough to explain. Let’s face it, life is difficult. No matter how much you love the place you live, we all need a place to find ease from the day. Otherwise, life will take its toll.

I’ve written before about chasing discomfort. Getting out of our shells to break new ground, deepening our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. But you can’t chase discomfort if you don’t have a foundation of comfort in the first place. A tranquil atmosphere that can refresh you in the midst of your pursuit of chasing difficult things.

If comfort is the foundation of a home, then family is the roof over your head. I think Bob Dylan said it well, “…burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail, poisoned in the bushes an’ blown out on the trail, hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn. ‘Come in’, she said, ‘I’ll give ya shelter from the storm.’” No matter where I have lived, storms always seem to roll in. In the midst of the rain, I can’t rely on comfort to carry me through. It’s during those tough times that family becomes so crucial.

We can’t always brave the storms by ourselves. Pelting rain and trial have brought me to the brink of myself. The only way I made it through those storms was a friend offering me some shelter. Whether by way of a listening ear, a word of advice, or just sitting in the rain with me. Enough can’t be said about the tremendous value family and friendship can provide, especially during life’s most trying moments.

Lastly, and perhaps the most important quality of a home is purpose. It’s one thing to live somewhere and love things about it. You could live amongst the most beautiful natural landscape and feel lost in the woods. On the contrary, you could also live somewhere that, to an outside observer, appears completely desolate but to you, it brings you serenity. To me, the key differentiator between a house and a home is the purpose built into the walls.

Throughout my time in New York, I’ve assumed that I had a purpose here. But, in all honesty, I don’t think I found my purpose until recently. I was just busy. Rewarded by a nice check and promises for an even brighter future, so long as I continued to climb the corporate ladder. Meanwhile, I wasted my present on things that didn’t fulfill me. That all changed at the beginning of 2023. My life was altered for me, as if the city itself changed the path in front of me. Now instead of working towards an empty pursuit, I work for the city itself. I educate its youth (at least I try to), I make its people laugh, and am building a way for others to see their home like I now see mine. An environment that is abundant with purpose just waiting to be claimed.

Sometimes where you live isn’t necessarily home. I think we all understand this to some extent. However, how often do we question why we feel at home? I think it’s an interesting thing to think about and I would encourage everyone to do it. It made me realize what home should be. Home is an extension of your values. Not just a place where you live but somewhere you can grow and thrive. Built on a tranquil foundation, sheltered by people who care for you, and walls formed with a purpose. And at least for right now, I have made my home in the city.