That’s often the first question people ask, isn’t it? Especially when they find out that I have just moved into the area. I heard it several times, last night, when I was meeting new people. For me, it’s such an awkward question. I mean, sure, I could just answer that I’m from the last state I lived in, but that’s simply the last place I lived. That’s not where I’m from.
To me, to be from somewhere is to have grown up there, to know all the best places to get Chinese food and the cleanest movie theater. It’s knowing that you had a home there, a safe, comfortable place. It’s knowing that the backyard of your parent’s house there will forever be haunted by memories of your childhood.
Well, after a few months of living in a place, I can usually tell you where to find the best Chinese food and the theater with the least-stickiest floors.
But that other stuff, I’ve never had.
I was born in California. I’ve lived in Washington state, other parts of California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, several parts of South Carolina, Virginia, and places near the coast of Alabama. The longest I’ve ever stayed in a place was three years, and that was an unusually long time for me. When I get my degree from Pitt, I’ll have lived here four years, breaking my record.
But the point is, I’ve moved a hell of a lot of times. As a result, I sometimes feel like a tree without roots. I don’t have that deep network of connections, of childhood friends and shared memories that most people do. In small communities, which are my least favorite places to be, I find it even harder to fit in and find people similar to me, not just because there are less people, but because most of them have lived there their entire lives, and so, yes, I’ll say it, their thinking is often small-minded. It’s a curse and a blessing to have moved so much, because I consider myself very good at seeing things from all sides of the argument. There are no small-town mentalities binding my opinions. And I think that’s great, but it can isolate me from everyone else when no one around thinks like I do.
But to the point: where am I from?
Well, I’m from the United States, which is a small part of planet Earth and the human race.
And that’s about as specific as I can get.