Where Are You From?

August 14, 2012
Going into my senior year at a new high school, there are many obvious details that most would expect me to obsess over. What will my classes be like? Will I like my teachers? And of course, who will I sit with at lunch? But after years of moving around and changing schools, these questions seem trivial to that one looming question that I am certain will be asked by every person I meet: where are you from?
I realize that this seems like a slightly unreasonable anxiety, but there is a legitimate cause to my madness. I have grown up a proud daughter of a service member of our United States Navy, or if you prefer a more forward title, I’m a Navy brat. With this oh-so-charming nickname comes a long history of never knowing where the Navy will send us next. Let me break this down for you. I was born in North Carolina and from there moved to Washington. Then came Virginia, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Florida, Maine, Hawaii, back to Maine, across the Atlantic to Italy, and finally back to Virginia. Whew. I need a breather after that. That’s eight states and one foreign country. On top of that, I’ve lived in thirteen different houses and attended eleven different public schools. Impressed? You should be. I believe that I deserve a pat on the back for not being completely insane after having hopped around from place to place for my entire life. As you can see, I am not “from” any one place. So then, what do I say when people ask me where I’m from? Do I say North Carolina because I was born there? Or do I say Hawaii because my measly three and a half years there is the longest I’ve ever been in one place?
Now do you understand my predicament?
What I’ve learned over the years is that who you are is far more than any one geographical location. We are not defined by our hometown, but rather by the experiences we have and the choices we make. Unlike most small-town-bred teens, I have observed and experienced a wide array of cultures and lifestyles, from hanging loose in Hawaii to living "la vita dolce" in Italy. Moving around so much definitely has been a blessing in disguise. Every friend left behind has been replaced with a new and exciting place to explore. Military life has made me adaptable, empathetic, and in constant need of somewhere new to discover.
So go ahead; ask me where I’m from. Just don’t expect a one word response. I’m from a loud, quirky, and loving family of five. I’m from spontaneous snowball fights. I’m from shell searching on the beach. I’m from the best pizza you’ll ever have. I’m from tearful goodbyes and joyous reunions. I’m from living every day like it’s my last.

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