• Emily Ott

Home and Family

Updated: Nov 19, 2018

Homesick. I was a child the first time I encountered this feeling. It was my first night away from my bed and the pink comforter that always smelled the same. I had a sleepover at a friend’s house. All night, I tossed and turned in my sleeping bag. I was uncomfortable. It was a new place. I felt this same uneasy feeling to a larger degree when I moved to Austin, Texas to go to college. This time, homesickness paralyzed me. I felt out of place in an unfamiliar setting away from the local close-knit community that had supported and shaped me for so long. However, as time went on, I slowly felt like my feet were on the dry Texas ground and my homesickness faded completely. My definition of home changed and grew to extend beyond the neighborhood I was raised in. My college home included places and people that I never expected to become so attached to. I welcomed a whole new community to create my extended Austin family.

After graduation, I moved to New York and have been here for about six months now. There are over eight million people that live and work in NYC, yet many people would argue that it can be one of the most isolating and lonely places. I think these negative feelings come when a person lacks community. It’s not enough to be around millions of strangers in a day. We need to connect to feel like we belong. When we feel like we belong, we feel at home. During my time on the East Coast so far, I oddly haven’t felt that horrible homesick pit in my stomach. Of course I miss my family in California and my people in Austin, but I don’t find myself homesick for a specific place. How is this possible?

Something my voice teacher said to me during my first few months in NYC is that “community is key”. I took this to heart and have actively sought out opportunities to build my extended NYC family/my creative tribe/my group of people. I’ve been to acting classes, book clubs, churches, work events, many auditions, and parties. I said “yes” to friends who asked me to connect and I reached out to those within and on the edge of my network. I rekindled friendships with people I had worked with in the past and made new friends in the process. I took a stage managing job, a job at Trader Joe's, an extra background role for a CBS show, odd jobs through a temp agency. I took a film class, participated in master classes, performed in a showcase. I’ve checked out cool coffee shops and bars with my roommates and friends. I ask people to go to movies and museums.The museums in NYC are amazing, especially when you have a buddy. As a result of this effort to create community, I feel like I could run into a friend walking down the street...and I do all the time! I’ve randomly seen familiar faces at a stop light, on the subway, in Bed Bath and Beyond, at the grocery store, in the audition holding room, even in the bathroom at a rehearsal studio.

Perhaps my definition of home has changed yet again from being associated with a place to a feeling within myself. I know that I am not alone on this journey that I have individually sought out because I have people near and far who have my back. This is family. The idea of family in 2018 is one that is radically different from the heteronormative unit of two parents and children that people generally associate with the term. Family to me describes a group of people who stand up, support, forgive, invest and love big! This includes individuals who are gay, lesbian, gender non-conforming, children, grandparents, single parents, friends, mentors, handicapped, cast members, teammates, and more. Growing up I heard the phrase, “you can’t pick your family, but you can pick your friends”. At this point in my life, I reject this idea because friends are included in my definition of family. I believe family is absolutely something you can choose.

If you haven’t heard Meg Jay’s TEDtalk, “Why 30 is not the new 20”, you should click this link and listen to it right now!! https://www.ted.com/talks/meg_jay_why_30_is_not_the_new_20

Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist, discusses this idea of family and how as young people, we are obligated to start building the kind of family and life that we want NOW! This is not just about who you are dating, but also extends to your bigger family. This pertains to everyone you are surrounding yourself with. This is your community! Another speaker I highly respect and look up to, Jim Rohn, is known for saying that we are the average of the five people that we are closest to. These are the people you spend the most time with. Whether you want to admit it or not, you are very influenced by your community. Knowing this, doesn’t it make sense to surround yourself with the people that will bring out the best in you? In turn, you will give and receive within your relationships more fully!

Going forward this week, here are a few questions for your to think about:

What is your definition of home?

Who is in your family community? Who is missing?

How can you take steps to build that lifelong support group today?

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