Thursday, January 18, 2018

Where are you from?


I have realized over the past few years that I am "fromless." There is actually no place that I feel like I am from. On my Facebook profile it says Portland. I think that's partly because I lived in Portland when I joined Facebook and partly because where else? I had gone to high school in Portland, learned to drive in Portland and come of age in Portland. It's where J and I moved and had our first apartment together after we were married. It made sense. On my birth certificate, it says Spokane. Living in Spokane again for the first time since I was 13 years old, I can definitely say I am not from here. Yes, I was born here, but I had lived in three countries by the time I was ten-years-old and then the summer after 7th grade, we moved to Portland. I stayed in Oregon for the next 11 years with the exception of studying abroad. But once my brother had graduated from high school, my mom sold our house in Portland and moved away. In fact, when I returned from my adventures studying abroad, mere weeks before I met J, I had just a padlock key and the address of a random storage unit to go home to. My brother was at college, my mom was already gone and the house had new occupants. I got all of my things out of storage and went back to Eugene to finish college. I never even bothered to drive by the house. 

So it's ironic that for the longest time, I wanted one of these family origin map art pieces. Then today, I took Theo to the pediatrician for a check-up and when they asked what hospital he was born in and I had to say he was born in Minnesota, it kind of changed my mind. Sigh. Would I really want a family map depicting Spokane, Illinois, Minnesota and Zurich? 


Well, maybe the Zurich part. Actually, I guess it's not ironic at all that I would want one of those family origin maps. All of my adult life, I have been longing and searching for a place to call home. Do you suppose the woman in this photo realizes that she's wearing a Zurich manicure? Probably not. But that's all I see when I look at it. I suppose in the absence of fromness, not being homeless is the next best thing. But it's strange and unfair and too bad that it took leaving for me to realize that out of everywhere I've lived in my adult life, I have never felt more at home than I did in Zurich. Somehow that city got under my skin and stole a piece of my heart and I don't know what to make of it. It's very possible that I'll never be able to return there to live. And yet, while I am fromless, at least I know that I am not entirely homeless.

Tell me where you're from in the comments below. I would love to hear.

(Family Origin Map photo via Terror Dome/Etsy. Manicure photo via Pinterest)

26 comments:

  1. I was born in Duisburg, Germany and grew up in Bonn, Germany - and Bonn is where I feel I am from. My parents and old friends still live there, and even though I have never lived there as an adult I dream of moving back there with my family. I have also lived in other cities in Germany (Frankfurt, Heidelberg and currently Berlin, which took me quite a long time to grow fond of), and in France and in Scotland (both for a year, as an au-pair and student respectively).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can completely relate to the feeling of dreaming of moving back with your family. My sister and her husband she had her two kids with had a picture-perfect life that made me want to move to Spokane. I remember thinking what they had was so ideal and wanting to do the same. You have also moved around a lot! How long have you been in Berlin? I would love to hear more about what you think of it...maybe email me? ;) xx

      Delete
  2. I always enjoy your posts about the sense of home or Vaterland �� I live in Rockhampton, Australia but was born in Germany. My daughter was born in Melbourne but tells me daily that she misses Germany eventhough she has been there only three times (in her three years of life so thats quite formative I guess). I wonder where she will decide to settle

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is wonderful to hear, Henrike! I love that you use the term Vaterland. One that I think of when I think of Zurich is Heimat. Seefeld is absolutely my Heimat in this world. Melbourne looks so flipping amazing! But so different from Germany. And you bring up a really interesting point. The concept of fromness coming from our sense of belonging based on our parents life and world is really huge. It's how third culture kids are formed, of course. They have the connection to their parents culture and the reality of their own time and place, and then poof! They construct some sort of mish-mash third culture of their own. Fascinating! And such an interesting question of where she will settle. Thank you for chiming in. I love hearing your experiences. xo

      Delete
  3. I was born in Memphis and moved to eastern PA (near Philly) when I was 8. I don't much remember living in Memphis, but I still tell people that is where I'm from. It doesn't really make any sense at all! I've lived in eastern PA ever since, but I don't think it's ever totally felt like home.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually that makes a lot of sense! In Montessori, the first plane (from 0-6 years old) is said to be the time in which we develop our "deep-seated feelings" about life. So a certain landscape can evoke a powerful response if it correlates with impressions or realities we experienced during that phase of life. In keeping with that philosophy, Memphis would absolutely be where you are from and would have shaped you in many ways. Likewise, I feel like that's what I find hard about being in Spokane. I did live here from birth until 6, but that first plane of development was truncated in a major way by my father's death when I was 5 years old. Given the heightened sensitivity during those first 6 years of life, to experience trauma then is also heightened. Combined with the fact that we moved away when I was 7, and then again when I was 9 and then for two complete summers at 11 and 12 and then to Portland when I was 13, I think that the pain and grief and trauma felt extra connected to Spokane. Each time we left, I felt free and unshackled. And each time we came back, I could feel it everywhere, even now. Spokane is unhappiness and pain to me. Come to think of it, I don't think it's a coincidence that I have found living here to be a constant struggle. Thank you for helping me see that, Jessica. Truly. What a revelation! xoxo

      Delete
    2. I can see how that would be the case! My parents divorced when I was 7, which is when we moved to Pennsylvania. Even though I wasn't too young, I have basically NO memory of my parents and I all living together. I wonder if I ever moved back to Memphis, would I experience something similar to your feelings about Spokane? And I also hope that, by having your own family in Spokane and watching them experience it through their eyes, perhaps some of the struggle will lift for you. xo

      Delete
  4. I am from Spokane and have lived in NYC since I came here for college. I feel like I am not 100% at home in either place, although I appreciate a lot in both.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the curse of going abroad, in a nutshell. You're never fully here nor there. Turns out it applies to moving from Spokane to NYC, too!!!!! I love the way you state your appreciation of both with no qualms. It's like Daniel Tiger said: "It's okay to feel two things at the same time." So deep. ;)

      Delete
    2. All I Need To Know I Learned From Daniel Tiger. funny and not funny ;)

      Delete
  5. Ha! I so get that Where are you from question. We moved twice in my child, in such a way that my childhood was cut up into almost perfect thirds. Born in rural New Jersey; moved to Williamsburg, VA when I was 6; moved to the a small town in the Poconos of PA when I was 12; left for good for college with no looking back when I was almost 18 (also, with one year of high school spent in Lille, France as an exchange student). And to top all that, my parents sold that PA house and retired to Florida. So yes, where am I from?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is incredible! You moved for each Montessori plane of development. First plane: rural NJ. Second plane: Williamsburg, VA and Third Plane: Poconos, PA. The first plane child seeks to wrap his hand around the world, and the second plane child seeks to wrap his mind around the world is what Montessori said. Do you feel those locales helped you to do that? Then the third plane is all about the emerging adult, who at once needs and wants her parents, but also must push them away. Sounds like you hit each nail on the head!

      Delete
  6. My husband and I have lived in several counties (he, five; me, three) and our kids (who are four) were born in the US, which is not really ‘home’ to either of us. We are fairly rootless (we do love our families) but chose this life because we love the freedom it gives us. Im pushing for a move back to Europe before our bilingually raised kids are too much older, but we’ll see. Anyway, what I really wanted to say is that you should absolutely try to move back to Zurich - you will never know if it’s the utopia you seek until you try. Do it!! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a great term, Kylee! I love this idea of "rootless" instead of "fromless." It sounds far more like a choice and a preference than a horrible fate! ;) And thank you for saying that about moving back to Zurich. I vacillate between thinking I should follow my heart and make the most of this one life to live, and then just thinking that it's inevitable that we accept our place in society once we are parents and let go of pipe dreams and settle down into a more boring life. And the latter just doesn't sit well with me! ;) xoxoxoxo

      Delete
  7. Argh, sometimes I really dread that question. Most people expect a simple answer when for a lot of people it's quite complicated. Maybe you don't 'originate' from Zurich but you are a local who loves their city (whether you are physically there or not) - in my book that counts :) Maybe the question should be "where do you call home?"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're so right, Rhiannon. Even one of my most cynical friends in Zurich said I need to come back. "This is your home," he said, "It's where your heart lives." And I cannot tell you how incredible it was to hear that from him. He's a total Scrooge type! I'm surprised he believes we all have hearts at all!! So thank you for making the distinction between origin and love. The love is real. :) xx

      Delete
  8. I have never really felt I had a good answer to where I was "from", having moved a number of times but it wasn't until I lived overseas that I stopped having a sense of "home" in a permanent sense and yet got an easy answer to "from". Prior to that I either felt that "home" was my parents home or the city in which I had settled after university. Living in Amsterdam, I used to answer the "from" question with my home country (Canada) without a specific city since my childhood home cities weren't where I moved from but where I moved from wasn't where I grew up. And while my daily sense of "home" was Amsterdam, I always felt I was being an expat not an immigrant so there was a temporary element to it. For all I loved many things about living there, I could never belong enough for it to feel like home. In many ways I loved our neighbourhood more than the city but it wasn't the first place I loved as a local (loving a city as a tourist is a very different matter). We were still fully in love with Montreal when we left for Amsterdam. Is Zurich the first city you loved for itself? I think leaving Amsterdam was easier for me because I had already experienced leaving a city I loved, so I knew that I could find that feeling again and I can separate some of the homesickness for a place I loved from the complicated expat/repat experience. I wonder from the way you speak of Zurich if it was your First Love city-wise and that may make the repatriation experience even more of a heartbreaker.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so happy that you're not longing for Amsterdam and regretting your move. SO HAPPY for you! :) I really took some time and thought about what you said about loving Zurich. I think there is a lot of truth in that. I realize I also loved Dublin the same way as a child. That was my first painful repatriation I now realize. But thank you for pointing that out about Zurich. Is Canada feeling like home now? Do you feel like you're where you're from being in the city you are now?

      Delete
  9. Turkish background, raised in Canada, now living in Switzerland!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I grew up in the foothills of NC and always wanted to leave (and did). Then I spent a few years in Ukraine before meeting Philipp and we lived in California and Switzerland. Our kids were both born in those places. Switzerland has a comfortable familiarity to me but it never ever felt like home. I think I could live there 20 years and it never would. Now we have returned to Asheville and I feel such a contentedness here, I don't know if I will ever want to leave. I feel a generational pull to this area that runs very deep. Recently I discovered my people have been in these mountains since before the Revolutionary War. I feel very proudly Southern yet am happy to have landed in this little liberal minded microcosm.

    I feel so sorry that you long to be somewhere and don't know how or if it will happen. I think it was so easy for me to leave my Swiss life because I always knew 100% I could have it back being married to a Swiss. : (

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, thank you Kristin! Time will tell if we'll ever go back to Switzerland. I love the way you describe your connection to be Southern. Very lovely. And I'm so happy you've found a little liberal spot amid all of it. Hooray! xoxo

      Delete
  11. This is such a good post and the comments are fascinating as are your responses to them! I am from a small town just north of London, but now live in the South West which was a wonderful and deliberate decision. What was not my decision is that I identify very strongly as European- half Irish, worked in Italy- and will no longer be one after bastard Brexit. I feel really alienated and saddened by the actions of the supposed majority- and there is no going back, no recourse, just snip! Get over it!

    On another note I am applying to gain Irish citizenship (I’m eligible thankfully) and loved living there for a month last year- visiting my mothers family farm just felt right- similar to the life I have chosen for myself, very rural, near the sea, green fields and hills. I wonder if that’s in my DNA somewhere but just missed my mum! Cab places imprints onto your phenotype? If environment and stress can then maybe??!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with you! If stress is passed down, then definitely preference for pastoral landscapes is, too. I love that you're getting your Irish citizenship. I wish I could do the same! ;) xoxxo

      Delete
  12. Love this post. Am late to the game, but. . .

    Chicago. Born and bred. Never left. College. First job. Husband. Kids. Anyway, I spent my school years in a suburb, but it was a TRUE suburb that was on the boarder with city. If it helps, Hillary Clinton graduated from my high school. I mention this because there is this thing in Chicago-land (as we call it) where people are a good 40 miles out of the city (like in Joliet or something) and they'll say "I'm from Chicago." "Um, no. No, you're not."

    Anyway, Chicago feels like home because this is where everyone is. My parents. My siblings. We talk often about moving, but then we all agree that we'd need to move together and I think we're all too afraid to make the change, because "what is someplace else really sucks?"

    However, I identify in a lot of ways with Eastern Europe. My parents are immigrants from Romania (even though, my mother is mostly German and my father is probably Italian and Hungarian or gypsy and who knows what else), so I do feel like I have a Euro mindset. I often talk about "Americans" in a way that my husband likes to mock. When I'm critical of the US or Americans, I conveniently sway to my Euro roots and vice versa. Oops :).

    Anyway, I've had serious moments of restlessness and have wondered about living elsewhere. Before my husband and I got together, I was in the process of applying to teach English in France, but then we got together and I never made it to France. Or bought the Mini Cooper I was eyeing. For now, though, there is a lot about Chicago that I dislike (e.g. the geography pretty much sucks around here, except for the lake) and sometimes hate (the corrupt politics, the taxes), but at the same time, I love it. Kind of like family. Sometimes ya can't stand 'em, but you still really love 'em :).

    I'm certain that if I ever end-up living somewhere else my answer to the question will always be "I'm from Chicago."

    I could say much more, but this is already super long and rambling! :)

    -Roxana

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chicago seems like a good place to be from. And it seems like a common place to have tight knit families all stay close together. I have a friend from Libertyville and she says she's from Chicago sometimes. Mainly out here on the West Coast because no one knows the difference. Does that count? ;) xx

      Delete
    2. Yes, that counts :). I'm being a bit of a stickler (insert sheepish emoji face. Does one exist?) Anyway, I think it's fair to identify with someplace if/when you work in that same place, etc. Also, these suburbs wouldn't exist were it not for the larger city.

      Anyway, great post. Thought provoking about identity and the meaning of "home." Also, love reading all the comments.

      -Roxana

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Blogger template designed By The Sunday Studio.