Since moving to Spain 10 months ago, I’ve had my share of conversations with complete strangers. Not to mention, learning a new language brings a whole other element to causal conversation with new people. But there’s one question that I have come to expect to be asked almost everyday. Whether it’s asked by a Spaniard or another American, it’s definitely the most popular – “Where are you from?” or “de donde eres?”
Never in my life have I been so stumped when asked a question(except for when I get asked why am I single). I hate to say this because it feels unnecessarily difficult, but it’s truly a complicated question for me to answer. Because in my 32 years of life, I have lived in five different cities in three different states – New York, Florida, & Virginia.
Okay, okay, so you’re probably saying that three states doesn’t seem like a lot and maybe it isn’t compared to military children and other exceptions. It’s their significance to me and the amount of time I lived in them that makes me hesitate. All three have contributed to the person I am today.
It’s a personal question and everyone has a different idea of what they consider home and where they come from. Here’s why I consider myself a “Viridian Yorker”(I just made that up):
Soy de Nueva York
I once read a quote or an article that says home is where people know your name(and I’m not referring to the Cheers theme song). If this theory is true, then New York City is where I call home in many ways. It’s the nature of the city to make you feel as if you belong to a small community no matter what neighborhood you live in. Everyone has their bodega or corner store that they frequent on a daily basis. Even if the bodega owner hates you, they still know your name. Or maybe it’s the pastry or coffee shop you get your morning coffee from before work; The one that has at least one employee that knows your name and has your coffee ready just the way you like it before you can even order. Perhaps it’s the dope boys standing on your block corner or the elderly women who sit out on lawn chairs during the summer that you pass by everyday. Even if they don’t know your name, they know you, and they’ll notice if they stop seeing you around.
I lived in NYC, Harlem to be exact, for five years. Although I moved there when I was 26, I grew so much during that time. I think that five years living in NYC is the equivalent of living in any other city for 10 years. It wears on you but I wouldn’t trade my hard earned experience for the world. There was no job that moved me there or parents that lived there so by default I ended up there. I chose to make NYC my home and home it did become. I could go on and on about my love for NYC but at the end of the day, it’s one of the three places I say that I’m from and you can fight me on that if you want(but don’t try because it really shouldn’t be that serious).
Soy de Florida
On the contrary, we’ve all heard that “Home is where the heart is”. It would be crazy for me not to mention Florida as a place that I’m from because my family lives there. My family consists of the most important people in my life and wherever they are, I am. It’s not just the place where my family resides, but where I grew up for just about half my life. I attended all of high school and college there. My four years living in Tallahassee for college were probably the most important four years of my entire life.
I do consider myself a Floridan. Warm, humid weather, palm trees, beaches and pools, Disney World, South Beach, Florida State University, are all elements of the “sunshine state” that I know all too well. Florida is where I met some of my best friends. It’s where I spent my teenage years. It’s where I was officially introduced to the myriad of Latin American and Caribbean cultures.
Although I haven’t lived there in six years, whenever I touch down to visit my family it doesn’t take much time for me to get reacquainted to the Florida lifestyle. The two biggest adjustments I have to make whenever I visit Florida is the speed in which I walk and replacing my all black attire with some color(blame both on NYC). Whether or not I choose to settle down there again, Florida will always be home.
Soy de Virginia
What can I say about Virginia? I’m quick to clarify to people that I’m not a native Floridian as many would assume, but a native Virginian. I was born in northern Virginia, lived there for almost 13 years and it’s where I spent my formative years. My childhood belongs to Virginia. Virginia is where I learned how to talk. This “accent” that most people try to pin as being southern Californian is actually northern Virginian. Virginia is where all my favorite Christmas memories took place. Virginia is where I spent most of my childhood day dreaming about who I wanted to be when I grew up. The child who grew up in Virginia is the same child I think about not letting down. It’s where Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups became my lifelong obsession. It’s where I first learned how to ride a bike, swim, ice skate, play basketball and do gymnastics. It’s where I spent summer nights chasing & catching fireflies or “lightening bugs” as we used to call them. It’s where I made my very first best friend and experienced my first crush.
Although my hometown of Sterling, VA has changed since I’ve lived there, it will always have a special place in my heart. It served a significant part of my life and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it.
So now you can understand why I just say that I’m from the east coast and call it a day. What’s the definition of “home” for you? Do you find it hard to answer the question, “Where are you from?”.