I Don’t Know What To Say When People Ask Where I’m From And I’m Sorry For This Long Explanation
It shouldn’t be a source of awkwardness when someone asks, “so where are you from?” but for me, it can be sometimes. I don’t think everyone wants to hear the long, accurate story. We’re used to hearing “Chicago!” or “Baton Rouge!” when we ask such a question, not an essay response starting with our date of birth. Like an unusually high number of questions asked of me, this is one doesn’t have a short answer.
But here is the essay. Coffee is recommended. I sincerely apologize for this. Really. I am really sorry.
I was born on Mather Air Force Base, located 12 miles east of Sacramento, California.
When I was a baby, my family moved to Texas. We lived in San Antonio and then Austin, from what I’m told, but I was too young to remember. My earliest memories are set in Austin, Texas, when I was two or three years old. My brother Randy was born here.
When I was four (AND A HALF), my family stayed briefly in D’lo, Mississippi (home of my paternal family) so that my baby brother Zach could be born. We then moved to the Air Force base in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
When I was 6, we packed up all our belongings, put them on a truck, and stayed briefly again in D’lo while our furniture was shipped to another base in Germany. It was 1989 and a lot was going on over there politically at the time.
A few months later, after the Air Force said “Nevermind about Germany!”, we moved back to Colorado Springs, but off base into a different house and school system. I often wonder why this happened. I would’ve loved Germany, and my mom had already taught us a bunch of German.
Halfway through second grade, my mom decided to homeschool us, and we all moved back to D’lo again into a double-wide trailer near my grandparents and tons of aunts and uncles and cousins. I don’t know where my dad was…flying planes somewhere, probably?
The summer after second grade, my family packed up and for reals moved to Torrejon Air Force Base in Madrid, Spain. THAT was a crazy year. Operation Desert Storm was in full swing, and my dad was right there in it.
During third grade, my parents split up and my mom moved to Seattle. I saw her maybe once or twice for court things or whatever until I was 16. My brothers and I moved in with my grandparents in D’lo until my dad returned from the war.
In 5th grade, I moved to Biloxi, Mississippi, where there is an Air Force base. My dad married my stepmom, who adopted us kids.
In 7th grade I moved to Tucson, Arizona. We had a house fire in our first house there, so we had to move into a new, non-burnt house, in the middle of the school year.
Somewhere in here I briefly lived and homeschooled in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
Sometime in 8th grade we all moved to Wichita Falls, Texas. It was a terrible time, and I have a lot of trauma from it. Needless to say I do not like Wichita Falls, Texas.
In 10th grade, my brother Randy and I moved to D’lo again because we didn’t want to live in Wichita Falls.
In 11th grade, my grandmother had heart struggles so we moved back to Wichita Falls for a very painful but brief couple of months before locating our mother in Seattle and asking if we could live with her. She said yes, and on December 20, 1998, we moved to Bothell, a suburb of Seattle. This meant that I went to three different high schools in three different states my junior year: Mississippi, Texas, Washington.
I’m going to skip all the houses and apartments I lived in within the Seattle area. There were several.
I went to college at age 20 in Pullman, Washington, which is on the far eastern edge of Washington, 8 miles from Idaho. Washington State University.
I worked in Yellowstone National Park in 2004. Wyoming.
I worked in Death Valley National Park in 2004–2005. California.
After Death Valley, I moved to Las Vegas. I lived in two separate apartments there. I met my husband there. It was kind of a ridiculous life, looking back on that time now.
I moved back to Seattle in 2006. I bartended and waited tables and went to school.
I moved to Ellensburg, Central Washington, in 2007. My husband was in pilot school there.
I moved briefly back to Seattle in 2008, then Olympia to finish my 10-year Bachelor’s degree, in 2010. Then back to Seattle.
In 2012 I moved to San Francisco!
In 2015 I moved to Oakland!
So, next time anyone even THINKS about asking for “the whole story” about where I’m from, just don’t let them do it. This is just as boring for me to explain as it is for anyone to have to listen to.
But really, what am I supposed to say? If I say Mississippi, it doesn’t feel correct. While I “identify” as southern, I didn’t exactly grow up my whole life there. My speech and traditions are from there, and most of my family, but it doesn’t feel completely me.
If I say “Seattle,” that doesn’t feel right either. I arrived there when I was nearly an adult, but I did live there for the majority of my adult life thus far. I feel very much connected to its culture, but not at a root, fundamental level. I always felt like a transplant there.
But I feel that way everywhere. I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all, and when people ask if it was difficult to move so often growing up, I just have to shrug and say, “it was all I knew!” because it actually wasn’t difficult at all. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed exploring.
So what I generally end up saying is, “It’s a long story….I’m an Air Force kid!” and that’s good enough. Kind of.
Given this list, what would you say?