Me, My Heart, and I

by Melinda Gallo

Home is where my heart expands

My sense of home has shifted since I first became an expat. I used to consider home to be the location where I was brought up and where my family lived. However, now I believe that home is no longer that static place from my past, but rather the place that nurtures and supports me. I'm not at home in Florence because I live here and ďhome is where the heart is,Ē but rather because itís where my heart expands.

Me, My Heart, and I :: Home is where my heart expands

I left California when I was 22 and have spent most of my adult life living overseas in Paris and now Florence. Each city exposed me to other ways of understanding the world and interacting with those around me. I integrated myself into these two cities by becoming fluent in the local language, adopting some of the local customs, creating relationships with many locals, and establishing my own connection with each city.

While I was in California earlier this year, many people asked me how it felt to be home. I'm always hesitant to tell them I donít consider California to be my home any more because a few have responded to me negatively. California is a comfortable place for me to be in, but itís not where I feel at home any more. That connection I once had with California has diminished after living so many years overseas.

I love California for a variety of reasons and am grateful for everything that it has instilled in me. I especially love tapping into the energy in Los Angeles where I was born because it always gets me back in touch with my core. Itís as if the location where I was born holds the key to who I really am and reminds me of what Iím here to accomplish in my life. My visits to California motivate me to reassess where I am in my life, set goals for myself, and to feel more optimistic about my future.

My sense of home in California is one of familiarity. In France, itís one of comfort and in Florence, itís one of support, stimulation, inspiration, and growth.

I have felt at home in other places where I have lived for many years. For example, Paris was home to me for many years and is now like an old friend. Every time I return to Paris, I feel as if I have never left. Living in Paris for many years has prompted me to become independent and self-reliant. Paris taught me to always follow my own path and to never regret it.

In Florence, my understanding of home is completely different. I feel a strong sense of belonging in Florence that I have never felt anywhere else in the world. My heart is at home in Florence because itís where I am inspired to keep my heart open, to live from my heart, and to express myself from my heart. Even when I travel, I feel Florence reverberating inside of my heart. I feel as if Florence has nestled herself deep inside of me and accompanies me wherever I go.

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