People always ask “where are you from?” and I think they’re asking “where’s home?” The next thing, after I respond, is “you can’t be from nowhere” or “you have to be from somewhere.” These exchanges discomfort me, in the same way I used to – prior to formulating an honest answer – feel about “do you like being a twin?” … “That’s like asking if I like my life… I don’t know anything different or have anything to compare to. Yes, I think so, but do you like not being a twin?”
My where-I’m-from answers have varied:
“I’m an Army brat”… though that doesn’t work as well outside the US
“I’ve lived lots of places.”
“I’m from the US”
“I’ve lived in Texas for 8 years, but I wouldn’t call it home”
People want me to be from Texas.
“Those were your formative years.”
“You grew up there.”
Yes, but I’ve got grief with the arrogant, conservative close-mindedness. I don’t connect with them culturally or socially, and I’m not going back, at least not any time soon. Most of my friends and family have also left, so I have few emotional ties – at least, not positive ones.
Home is contextual. I think it’s an emotional state of mind, a source of love and strong relationships, and not necessarily a geographical place. I have also said that home often feels like where I’m going next. I feel nomadic sometimes, but I like having a base. I like that base being Boston, but I also like that base to move, as it did periodically with family moves growing up. I enjoy comfort, but I’m certainly no homebody.
The German language has a set of twin-words (NYTimes, 2016):
- ‘heinweh’ means aching for home
- ‘fernweh’ means aching to be away
I think I’m capable of experiencing these simulataneously, because if “home” is “comfort,” I’m sometimes most at peace in a new, foreign place.
Where do I ache to be? I don’t know. I do know that Texas gives me anxiety. There’s little nostalgia, save the relationships that I’ve proudly kept. So, I’m not from Texas, and I shouldn’t feel guilty for disowning it. My parents are also from “nowhere.” My mom’s family originate in Maine. My dad’s parents: from Newburyport/Amesbury and from Long Island. So, I guess my family is from the northeast, but both my parents grew up having 11+ states as “homes”. I feel at home in Boston, and I’ve lived here for 3+ years, so for now, Boston can be home. Yes, permission granted.
But, if you ask where I’m from, you’re putting me into a box, and I simply don’t fit. I’m comforted by a book I’m reading. Home in that sense is page 95 of “Cutting for Stone”:
“But isn’t that the definition of home? Not where you’re from, but where you’re wanted most.”
Where I’m wanted most…
Where I ache to be…
I’m “sorry,” but I’m not singular in my sense of home.
I live in and love Boston.
My family is in Tennessee, Minnesota, Maine, and Texas.
My friends are spread around the world.
I am home with a small bar of chocolate in my hand.
I am home on a warm, sunny beach.
I am home when my family gathers around a table.
I am home when I bike to Walden Pond, waiting for the world to awaken.
I am home with a calm mind on a yoga mat.
I am home alone and with others, and perhaps most importantly, even if I can’t name a place, I know the feeling of home.