It’s inevitable, because people are innately curious.
“Where are you from?”
Or, even more confusing,
“Where’s home for you?”
Or perhaps we innately love to categorize people (guilty.)
“You’re not from around here.”
“You’re from THERE?!?!!”
We’re also innately connective, hoping to find a common ground or experience.
“Wow, you’re from San Diego? This one time I was in San Diego…”
“You’re from Liverpool? I grew up there…”
“You’re from Singapore? I’ve heard they arrest you for chewing gum there.”
Maybe it’s a way of explaining each other. It’s comfortable to know that we each have a destination and perhaps even a stereotype to match.
Maybe it’s part of identity, a self-justification in an external perspective.
It’s a loaded question and still the first icebreaker we offer. It’s the first identification we provide. But now, “where are you from” is overrated and outdated. It’s no longer quite as relevant in our globalizing, enterprising society of movers and shakers.
Which brings me to my confession.
I don’t know where I’m from.
It seems that every day someone asks me. They mean well, with a pleasant, interested expression. But I have no idea how to answer.
I was born in Sacramento. Does that mean that I’m from Sacramento, with those rice fields and Kings fans? (I do like eating rice. Pretty sure it’s not related.)
But I lived in Austin, Texas for three years. Does that make me a Texan with an affinity for ten-gallon Stetsons and fire ants? (easy answer there: no.)
But then I “grew up” in Seattle, Washington, ages 6 to 14. Seattle could be a home base, because the majority of my childhood was spent in the misty mountains and grey Puget Sound islands, growing up with some of the best friends I could ask for. Yet now, Seattle is more a part of my past than of my present or future (Facebook bridges the friendship gap nicely.)
Enter Collegedale, Tennessee. C-dale (Happy Valley) has all the symptoms of being home: several best friends, my family and their house, a high school with my picture on the wall. But somewhere in the fine print of “home,” I expect to see a clause that says “I could come home to this place and live here someday.” And, sadly enough, that clause is absent in my friendship agreement with the South. I love my people dearly, but I can’t live so far from the ocean. Therefore, Collegedale remains a destination whose people are my home and who travel with me in my thoughts and prayers and messaging inbox.
And here I am, in my second year at in college, in Napa Valley, California, another home for me. I feel fulfilled here, busy and involved, with my beloved California under my feet. Home is, to a large extent, what you make it, and I’ve worked to make California mine: I’m a California driver, taxpayer, passport-holder and voter. I’ve got a network of relatives, friends and professional connections up and down the state. I’ve got a couple of California graduate school applications on my desk. So is this home?
A year in Spain showed me that perhaps my home is not a post office box but the continuum of my experiences. I was just as contentedly “at home” sitting on the Spanish Steps in Rome as I am anywhere, because my soul was connected. I get a rush of familiarity driving through the Napa Valley vineyards. I feel alive and fulfilled every time I glimpse the ocean. That feeling is another home, a bubble of exhilaration and possibility.
So where is home? Home is any place, person, feeling or idea that is fulfilling, inspiring, rejuvenating, soothing, motivating, or comforting. Maybe they’re right, home is where the heart is. In that case, home is this coffee shop, my favorite song, a Pacific beach, the feeling that you’ve helped someone, a European plaza café, my best friends’ hugs, sunny days, my family’s laughs, the feeling of passion, the driver’s seat of my car, my journal.
Home should be a place/person/feeling where you go to feel complete, where you are loved and empowered and content. Find your own definition of home; it’s what you make of it. And now it’s your turn. Where is home?