As someone who has moved around a lot, I’m used to the question, “Where are you from?” constantly being asked of me. The problem is, I don’t have an answer that people expect. Where I’m from is a combination of many places, experiences, and people. Instead of answering “Where are you from?” with a simple city and state, I’m left trying to think of a witty response. Because the real answer to this question is too complicated to explain in most social settings.
I was born in upstate New York, (way, way upstate), in a town called Potsdam. I lived in Baldwinsville, right outside of Syracuse, in the town my mom grew up in, until I was 5. From here on out, things get tricky. We moved to Virginia Beach, then Vermont (for less than 6 months), then Rhode Island, and finally, Richmond, where I graduated high school. I then went to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. When I graduated from JMU, I moved to Boulder, Colorado. I lived in Boulder for 11 months, completing a term of AmeriCorps, before moving back to Virginia and landing in Roanoke. I stayed in Roanoke for one and a half years before moving to the Twin Cities and setting up a new home base for myself in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
So, I think you can see what I mean when I say “Where are you from?” is complicated for me. Because of all of this moving, I’ve had to define my own sense of home. No, I’m not going to say home is where the heart is.While there’s some truth to that, it also glazes over all of the difficult parts.
The part where you have zero friends and finding others in the market for friendships feels impossibly overwhelming.
The part where your introverted, socially awkward qualities take over and keep hijacking interactions with others because you’re so nervous and desperate for friends you just can’t keep your shit together.
The part where you were finally learning street names and navigation without Google Maps talking to you all the time, and BAM just like that, you’re a lost little puppy again.
Before I turn this into some sad post about how moving is the worst and I never want to do it again, let me pause. Because that’s not what I’m trying to say here.
Moving around, meeting new people, experiencing the different cultures around the United States, has allowed me to develop a deeper understanding of human nature. By becoming the new kid over and over again, I’ve been able to observe as an outsider. As a sociology major, we are taught to ask why things are the way they are. What’s the reason behind social norms in different areas? What makes people happy or unhappy in different cities? Why do they call a water fountain a bubbler?! (Okay maybe that last one isn’t sociologically related, but if you’re from Rhode Island, I’d love an answer to that question.)
In moving, I’ve taken bits and pieces of the different cultures, and added them up to make who I am today. When people ask “Where are you from?” my response of “All over”, isn’t meant to be sassy and rude. It’s just the quickest answer I have in a casual setting.
I’m impatient, thanks to Rhode Island.
I’m an adventure seeker thanks to not only moving around a lot but living in the adventure land that is Colorado.
I’m a foodie, thanks to New England, Richmond, and Boulder.
I’m an beach bum thanks to Rhode Island.
But I’m also a river rat thanks to Richmond.
I say “y’all” thanks to Virginia.
And I say “you guys” thanks to New England.
I’ve picked things up along the way and because of that I don’t fit into a neat little box. With all of this moving, the greatest outcome has been knowing exactly who I am from a young age. This one takeaway alone is enough to make it all worth it.