My tolerance for spending time with strangers is low. After a week of travel, I require an intense recovery process that includes coffee, naps, binge watching movies I’ve seen a hundred times, and, of course, dog snuggles. A few weekends ago, I took one of these recovery weekends and fell asleep during an episode of some show. I woke up to the character asking where the other person was from. She responded: “Everywhere. My parents thought there was always somewhere better to discover.”
I answer this question the same way when people ask me where I’m from, at least partially. I say I am from everywhere too, but it is followed up by a far less magical reason than wanderlust. My parents were in the military. We got orders and off we went. Never to Europe or anywhere exotic. No, we moved up and down the East coast between military bases with brick buildings and guarded gates you could have easily mistaken for each other. Every home felt pretty much the same.
As an adult, I didn’t stop moving. I don’t know if it was meant to be, I had a craving to leave, or a little bit of both. It felt like I had a timer waiting to go off. Every three years, I picked up my things and made a move. I packed a U-Haul trailer with the things I loved most and migrated from one new place to another, often sight unseen.
In each of these homes, I settled in without a problem. I had plenty of practice, after all. Home was never about the features, good weather, or having friends nearby. It was simply the place where my stuff would land. I felt little attachment to any place. I’ve done that all my life – shown up somewhere because of someone else’s orders.
Then, at the end of a relationship and important chapter of my life a few years ago, I was determined not to simply send myself to the next destination based on anyone else’s orders. I would create my own destiny. I remember writing in my journal and in this letter that I was on a quest to find my home. This magical place I wouldn’t want to leave.
At first, the lists started with all the specifics. Sunshine. No humidity. Beaches nearby. The list went on and on. But in the van adventure, I allowed myself to stop searching for home. I leaned into feeling lost and went with no direction. I was waiting for some feeling, some knowing to wash over me as I entered each town. Something from the sky to signal that I found the place where I belong.
However, as I traveled from city to city, friend to friend, I know now that I was traveling with a broken compass. I was following what I thought I wanted, not what made me feel good. Home had nothing to do with every logistical detail. Not even the beach. The feeling I was waiting for wasn’t about how warm it gets in the summer or the sunshine.
The feeling I was seeking was the one I get when I play unicorns with my 2-year old niece and she tells me that she’s having fun. The sensation that washes over me when the baby smiles at me for the first time. The hope I feel every time I get a hug from my Aunt. How my Uncle just shows up to help. Dinner dates with my cousin. The knowing glances of mutual understanding and borderline annoyance only family can give.
No beautiful view can make you feel seen like that. I thought I was in search of somewhere better to discover, but I was searching for a feeling. A feeling and healing I’ve found in a place I never thought I’d call home again: North Carolina. Surrounded by these beautiful people and big acts of love, I find myself moving forward with confidence for the first time. Recovering from years of thinking I had to do it all myself. Finally finding the feeling I call home.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.