Monday, November 22, 2010

Where am I from?

Whenever I meet someone for the first time the inevitable question comes up. "Where are you from?" I still don't know how to answer this. I moved around so much as a kid that I really don't identify myself with any one place. Until the age of 18 I moved about 7 times (and then another 3 or 4 times after that). I first try to explain I'm not from anywhere because I moved around so much. This does not satisfy the questioner and they ask the second question: "but where were you born?" Well, I was born in England, but I certainly don't consider myself from there because I moved when I was still a baby. "But then where did you live after that?" is the 3rd question after which I usually start to babble about all the places I've moved in short succession, confusing both of us. By now I've thoroughly annoyed the person I've just met and they think I'm being devious. If they're still talking to me at this point the 4th question is always, "was your dad in the military?"

No, my dad was not in the military. He went to business school and managed engineering firms. Pretty much a suit and tie business man. He just
got transferred a lot and brought the whole family with him. Moving was just a factor of life, my sister and I didn't know any other way. Was it hard? Fun? Exciting? A little bit of everything I guess. I remember being excited to move to California because I was naive enough to think it might still be like the wild west as depicted in the movies (I was a little kid with a wild imagination). I dreaded moving to Scotland because California was so nice, but then cried like a baby when I learned we were moving back to America. Weird times.

All in all I'm happy to have lived in the many places I did. It's influenced me to become quite an empathetic and open-minded individual.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, here's a list of all the places I've lived in:
  • Pratts Bottom, England: Born in merry ol' England - Kent, south of London. As a result I'm lucky enough to have dual citizenship (US & UK).
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts: Although still permanently residing outside of London, my dad was attending Harvard Business School at the same time (George W Bush was in his graduating class but my dad said he never saw him in class!) so we spent the school year in Cambridge and the summers in England - sounds nice, right?
  • Highland Park, Illinois: After 3 years of living in England we sold the house and moved, with my very pregnant mother, to Highland Park, Illinois just outside of Chicago (much to my sister's chagrin for just missing being born in Europe).
  • Morgantown, West Virginia: After only a blink of an eye we moved out of the mid-west and into Appalachia country. My dad worked in the coal mining industry and my mom taught at WVU. For my first year of school my classes were held in a mobile home while the permanent building was still being built.
  • Los Gatos, California: Moved to the beautiful bay area. Apple computers was just starting at this point and we were in the middle of what would later be known as Silicon Valley. We had an Apple IIe.
  • Edinburgh, Scotland: After a few years of feeling quite comfortable in the laid-back California lifestyle, we were sent to cold, dark Scotland. Don't get me wrong, I love Scotland now and think Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But at the time it was a jarring culture-shock. I became a teenager here.
  • Long Island, New York: While keeping the flat in Edinburgh, my dad's job was transferred and we moved to Long Island, NY. This was yet another culture shock. I had developed a Scottish accent and all the kids in my new school would surround me, demanding me to talk. They loved my accent but I was shy and uncomfortable with my new performance role. I still remember hiding in the bathroom after school was out until all the other kids had gone home.
  • Washington DC: Time to leave the parents and go to college. I studied architecture. While living in DC my family moved outside of Atlanta, GA and lived there for 6 years. I spent 2 summers in Alpharetta working in construction.
  • Philadelphia, PA: After architecture school I moved to Philly. My parents, meanwhile, had left the south and moved to Minneapolis. Spent 2 great years in Philly, but ultimately left because the tiny music/art scene had become stifling. Besides, New York was calling.
  • New York, New York: NYC! So nice they had to name it twice. First East Village, then Williamsburg and, to this day, Greenpoint. This is the city I identify with the most. I've lived here far longer than anywhere else (over 10 years now). Although I wasn't born here, I consider myself a New Yorker through-and-through. Home sweet home! My parents now reside in Vermont and they plan on staying there. My sister lives with her husband in Arlington, VA. Finally, a sense of permanency.
So there you have it. Hopefully you can now see why saying where I'm from is not such an easy answer. So, please, kindly refrain from asking. Upon meeting someone new perhaps different questions can be asked. Like "Hi, nice to meet you. What's your favorite fruit?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey bro, I know how you feel! One annoyingly chipper person once advised me that instead of saying I'm not from anywhere, I should say I'm from everywhere as it sounds more positive! :)

I can't believe how long you've been in NYC! Time is flying.
- Sarah