Where are you from? Where is home for you? Two questions I am constantly asked whenever I go somewhere or meet someone new. In the 21st century, this question doesn’t necessarily have an answer. Families no longer live next door to each other—some don't even live in the same area.
The ability to move and explore has transformed this concept in ways no one has imagined. I am an American with Irish, Italian, English, Danish, and German heritage. I’ve lived in Ridgefield, CT, Kent, CT, North Carolina, Massachusetts—even Ireland. Do I just pick one? Is it where I lived first? The place I was the longest? The place I have most recently been? Is it up to me?
There seems to be a demand for a reason or foundation for this answer similar to choosing a favorite sports team. Is it where you are from? Where you live now? Can I just pick a team doing very well? There is a frustration with people who arbitrarily pick a team, or pick a heritage—it needs to be justified.
But to be 100 percent Irish living in Ireland makes that answer easy, but to be 100 percent Irish having lived in America and then Germany makes it hard. Where is home for them?
This ability to move is a wonderful gift, but at the end of the day, it only means something if you have a home to go back to.
Some people define a person, hobby, or moment as their home—a place of inner peace. In that case, home isn’t where you sleep but where you wake up—physically and mentally. Living in a different country, I have noticed that consistently being surrounded by unfamiliar people and cultures forces me to wake up. It forces me to pay attention and notice the little things that make one place, one person, different from another—allowing me to find my home.
Home has less to do with soil and more about what fills your heart and soul.
If you lost everything and just existed, what would you call home? Can an interest in a culture be grounds to have it be a part of your identity? I love the dining culture of Italy, the natural beauty and dark humor of Ireland, the architecture of France, and the German language. Do I have to pick one? Have a favorite? Does it have to extend from where my heritage comes from?
Americans are the mutts of the world, constantly questioning and defining their identity, their home—asking and answering the question, “where are you from?” America is old enough where to be American carries more weight than it did when emigration was booming and everyone you met was a first or second generation from someplace else. But at the end of the day everyone everywhere once came from someplace else.
An American is a compilation of hundreds of thousands types of people from hundreds and thousands of other places. This is beautiful, and it makes the world more diverse than we can see or take note of, but it also is a curse. It is hard to let go of the past without taking a step forward. Instead of coming to America for opportunities, more and more young Americans are traveling abroad to find what people found in America years ago.Every decision we make defines who we are becoming. E.E. Cummings wrote, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting." So that home we are looking for is no longer where you just happen to be born, but it's the place where you become yourself.