As A Military Kid, I Can't Answer 'Where Are You From?'
Start writing a post
Lifestyle

As A Military Kid, I Can't Answer 'Where Are You From?'

I've had a lot of homes.

119
As A Military Kid, I Can't Answer 'Where Are You From?'
Jennifer Downs

"So, where are you from?" someone asks here in New York City, where I am attending college. We're a diverse school made up of students from around the globe, so naturally trading origin stories is a universal conversation starter.

But I hesitate at that question. I weigh my options: the simple answer, best suited for casual fact exchanges with a near-stranger, versus the truth.

I came to college from Virginia. That in and of itself requires some additional explanation; left to their own devices, most non-Virginians start imagining farms and year-round warm weather, because most of Virginia is "the South." But I am from Northern Virginia, and people on both sides of that oh-so-important imaginary line have argued Northern Virginia should be its own state. It's the suburbs of Washington, D.C.: a Type A, fast-paced enclave of ambition. And we get snow, too.

But while Northern Virginia is indeed where I lived directly before college and where I return when I "go home" for a long weekend, it is not truly where I'm from.

It's an easy answer, and it's accurate enough. After having spent five years there prior to college, two years longer than I lived anywhere else, it has imprinted on me.

But it's not where I'm from.

I didn't grow up in Virginia. I didn't even know I would come to live there until middle school, and I didn't know it would have an unrivaled long-term impact on my life until well into high school.

I'm the daughter of an Air Force colonel, so by the age of fourteen, I had moved five times. I had lived in four states—but California twice, in locations seven hours apart from one another—and one foreign country. We moved every three years in the beginning of my life and every two years by the time I was ten. I made friendships assuming they would be temporary. As a consolation prize for abandoning every bedroom I ever called my own, I got to pick out a new bedspread each time we relocated.

If I were to give a full explanation of where I'm from, if I were to include every place that ever influenced my development into the person I am today, I would need to say them all: Arizona; Hawaii; Germany; Los Angeles, California; Vacaville, California; and finally, Virginia.

It feels like a lie of omission to say Virginia alone. It's become home. But that was true of every other place my family set up temporary lives. As a military kid, you don't get the luxury of being picky about where you rest your roots.

It was revolutionary when we lived in the Virginia house long enough to justify tracking our heights in pencil marks on the kitchen wall.

This isn't something I have to grapple with much. It's not a source of trauma that must be probed. It's my life. Just like lifelong residents of a single place cannot imagine living like me, I cannot imagine living like them. I don't know what having one true home would feel like.

It might be unpleasant. Sometimes shedding friendships was beneficial; if there was discomfort between us, I could simply leave and fade out of contact. I could reinvent myself on a triennial basis if I so desired. I got to see so much more of the world than my peers who had permanent homes; how many of them have been to Paris or the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

I don't regret my upbringing.

But now, in New York City, I am relearning the meaning of home. I am faced with a choice, for the first time, of where to live and how long to stay. I am claiming this place as my own because I am interested in exploring it, not because some Air Force higher-up directed my family there.

I already know home is a malleable concept. It's just that for the first time, I am the one doing the shaping.

New York is the city of dreams, a place every starry-eyed artistic type journeys at least once in their lifetime if only to denounce it as overrated. It has a gravity of its own, a pull rooted in centuries of significance.

But for me, it is more than a place of breathless opportunity. It is a potential permanent home.

I test its concrete to see if it will hold my roots after two decades of shallow planting. I want to be a so-called real New Yorker not for bragging rights but so that I can hold a location in my blood and bones. So I can have the kind of unshakeable connection to a place that almost everyone else was born into.

Still, adopting New York as a new home won't help me in the moments after I hear "So, where are you from?" It'll only be one more patchwork on my quilt, another step in the path that got me to where I am standing right now. Another footnote to add after I explain that my Virginia has aggressive drivers, not farmers.

Anything less would be incomplete.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Lifestyle

TikTok Made Me Buy It: Flawless's Skincare Fridge

I bought and tested one of TikTok's popular products so you don't have to.

23254

I spend a lot of time on TikTok and I never know whether the products I see are worth it or not, especially when I'm looking at the price. For Christmas, my aunt got me a gift card to Ulta. I didn't know what to buy. I have way too many palettes and lipsticks. I have my essentials. What else could I need? Then it hit me that I saw a lot of people these past few months showing off their skincare fridges. So, the second I thought of it I went on the Ulta app and bought it. So, here are my thoughts.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

37 Cute And Unique Pinterest Board Titles

Let's be real, the hardest part about Pinterest is thinking of a cute title for your board.

11194

I don't know about anyone else but I have recently become re-obsessed with Pinterest. Like, I am spending a stupid amount of time on Pinterest daily now. While I have been binging Pinterest I have found that I love making cute and aesthetic boards but it is SO hard to come up with a name to match it. So, I scoured the internet and my brain for you. Happy pinning!

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

This Is What Type Of Person You Are Based On Your Favorite Cereal

Your cereal preference reveals more than you think.

6648
Photo by Nyana Stoica on Unsplash

Whether you eat cereal for breakfast or a late-night snack, you probably have a favorite. Little did you know that what you prefer says a lot about your personality.

Keep Reading... Show less
Alexis Hoffman

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we all know that cutting out social interaction has taken its toll.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Asked Instagram How 2020 Was, And Maybe It Wasn't The Worst Year Ever

2020 is a year to remember but it's not as bad as we made it out to be.

41142

It's finally 2021 and we're honestly all just happy that 2020 is over. I decided to ask my Instagram followers how they felt about 2020 and the results were a little more mixed up than expected.

Keep Reading... Show less

Ever since I watched "How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days," I've been a major Matthew McConaughey fan. I've seen most of his movies, and I definitely got way too excited when he finally made an Instagram! So when he announced he would be releasing a memoir titled "Greenlights," I knew I absolutely had to get my hands on this book. And so did the rest of the world, as the book began to flood social media.

Truthfully, I would much rather read a fiction book and dive into another world than read a nonfiction book - even if it is one of my favorite celebrities. But I had a feeling this book wouldn't disappoint or bore.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

The Armie Hammer Scandal Discourse Is Kink Shaming And Harming Actual Victims

The rumors surrounding Armie Hammer has resulted in some very toxic and harmful discourse.

13854

Sex is something that occupies a very significant place in our lives. Even asexual people can have an active sex life. With the various types of people that comprise this world, it obviously results in various sexual interests. And unconventional people can engage in some pretty unconventional sex practices. Even the most conventional people on the surface might surprise us with their sexual fantasies.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments