Where are you from? Flavoring your identity

Sometimes travel turns into permanent residence. Or at least an extended-run of residency. And sometimes we become more than where we were born. So what about you – where are you from?

It’s funny how cities are like people, right? Or that cities have kind of a flavor, you know? A flavor that you inherit if you’re there long enough.

I am a California girl for sure; it is place I dreamed of living from a very young age and I feel an at-home-ness about it. At the same time, I am at heart a Chicago girl. Even though I didn’t move there until age 17, I consider it my hometown. It changed me as much as any human being has. I cannot deny it’s in me, whether or not I want it to be. For 15 years, it formed me, for better or worse. It gave me friendships and passions and goals. I fell in love and fell into despair there.  It gave me independence and community and a love of diversity, an appreciation of summer, and a fierce respect for a wicked winter. It give me the grit and determination and absolute lack of fear of driving anywhere at any time in any vehicle.

I don’t live in Chicago, and I’m not sure I ever will again, but I love that big beastly city like a long-time friend. I don’t have a homesickness for it like I used to, but then again I don’t have a homesickness for any place like I used to. While once I had a real ache – an actual physical pain being so far from home, I’ve since learned that this kind of heartache – of wanting to be in a place you are not – is futile. I don’t cry anymore when I get on the return flight to California. But then again, I don’t ache to return “home” to northern California, either.

And there you have it: Where are you from?

When we ask this, we want to know where you were born, where you grew up, where your formative years were spent…even though these things may have three different answers.

I might’ve been born in small, rural, western Illinois, living in the same town for kindergarten through 12th grade, but I am undoubtedly a city girl. Today, I find that small towns are quaint and charming and beautiful to visit, but my restless heart craves the grit and bustle of a metropolis when it comes to setting up shop.

I’ve spent the vast majority of my life in the Midwest, except 5 years in California and a handful of months in Brazil. And while I carry a strong attention to politeness and the blue collar practicality of my Midwestern peers, I also carry a hefty dose of the kind of free-thinking openness you’ll only find in northern California. (Why yes, I would like to hear your thoughts on how pansexuality and bisexuality differ.)

I'm sort of from here.
I’m sort of from here.

I don’t consider myself a San Franciscan – or at least not solely one. I can’t say it’s a city I completely understand, but I can say it’s a great teacher of self-acceptance. For all it’s over-priced, gentrified flaws, there is still no better place to find fellow weirdos (and I use “weirdo” to mean being awesomely and uniquely you). SF is a place where you can proudly let your freak flag fly and it’s a wonderful place for people-watching the freak flags of others. And that’s an idea I like to carry with me as I walk through life – loving who you are in your glorious weirdness, and giving others the space to do their thing.

So I was born in rural Illinois, but I’m really from Chicago and northern California has added some spice to my Midwestern tea.

And in a very San Francisco sentiment, I think you are from where you want to be from…the place that feels like home, the place that you feel most protective of, the one that shaped you the most…no matter how far that is from the place you were born.

So where are you from? How has your answer changed over your life? How has it shaped your identity?

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