I like to think of myself as the product of a new, increasingly mobile U.S. society. I was born in Seattle to parents from Connecticut and raised in the hills of North Carolina. I often bring this up whenever someone asks me where I’m from.
‘Where am I from?’
I say, making it a point to pause in contemplation as if this were a strange question that I did not get much.
‘Well… I guess home is in North Carolina.’
If I’m lucky, they will pick up on the emphasis and then ask, ‘What does that mean?'
This gives me an opening to go on my long ramble about how I’m not from anywhere. I’ll tell them the variant regions of the country that were the backdrop to my coming into being and then say definitively that, ‘I’m not from anywhere. I’m the new American child.’ Or some such tripe.
This is a not so subtle way of claiming a sort of superiority over others, I guess. You, you provincials, you might be from Chapel Hill or San Francisco or even New York city, but that’s all you know. Me? I’m from everywhere and nowhere. I’ve no real ties to any real place and that makes me different from you, lets me think differently than you and maybe makes me better than you.
Do I really think this? I’m not sure. But I know that my conscious effort to forsake a regional identity is just that, another way of forming an identity. I’m not from North Carolina. I’m not from anywhere. My fluid heritage sets me apart, makes me distinct in a world of proliferating voices. It even provides an axis of perspective in its nebulousness: I’m from nowhere. Never completely part of any group, I can be the better judge of it. I’m the outsider always looking in, but able to put a foot through the door if I want. It let’s me put on multiple hats: it slows my drawl when I want to be different from Bay area smugness, it adds a sharp ‘a’ when I talk about how much I miss ColoRAHdo, it allows me to smile condescendingly about Concord High’s playoff run this year in football, it lets me say things about ‘the hermeneutics of suspicion’ or historical anachronism around my family in Connecticut… it lets me be a real prick when I want to.
And it’s something I need to work on. But this really is me. All of these things are part of me: making homophobic jokes between classes in high school, looking at the snow on the Rockies as I run through Washington Park, wandering alone through Normandy looking for a cheap place to eat so I can afford a hotel room, laughing about an interval workout at a round table in the dining hall, collapsing into a glass of gin after studying in a library for twelve hours.
This really is me.