Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Where are You From?

‘Where are you from?’ It doesn’t sound like a loaded question, but for an ex-pat it is. For people who are born in raised in the same spot, I think they take for granted how much of their identity is wrapped up in their geography. When you move around a lot, the question of where you’re from is a heavier question, one with many answers.
Born in Baton Rouge, destined to be a Tiger.
I first began struggling with this question in college. My parents moved from my ‘hometown’ of Lafayette, Louisiana as soon as I graduated from high school and it wasn’t long before they left the country entirely. I never went ‘home’ from college, and because my family was so spread out, Lafayette itself became an infrequent stop on my way to Houston and Dallas.
Some of my Lafayette girls.
After a few years, I stopped identifying myself as being from Lafayette, and instead really invested in making Baton Rouge my home town. It had LSU, after all. And it’s where I was born, so responding that I was from Baton Rouge wasn’t too much of a stretch, until it was met with the follow up question of “Where did you go to high school?”. Apparently, simply going to college somewhere doesn’t give you the right to claim that college town as your own.
So what are people truly asking when they ask ‘where are you from’? Are they asking where you live? Where you were born? Where you went to grade school? High School? College? Grad School? Are they asking where your parents live? Where you would take someone for a hometown date on 'The Bachelor'? Where your hometown visit would be if you were a finalist on 'American Idol'?
The first 9 years of my life were spent in this house in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Ever since moving to Scotland, my answer has gotten even more complicated. In Ex-Pat terms, the question of where you are from generally refers to where your last U.S. Assignment was. Am I from Houston? I don’t feel like I am, though many of my friends would answer yes. I suppose it all depends on the context, but to me, where you are from refers to that spot where you feel most at home. For me, that spot is becoming harder and harder to pin down. 
New Orleans- The start of my Soccer Career.

Here is my general spiel: I grew up in South Louisiana and spent time in New Orleans, Lafayette, and Baton Rouge. I went to high school in Lafayette and college at LSU. Then we moved to Texas and lived in Midland for 2 ½ years before moving to Houston for 18 months. From Houston, we came to Aberdeen, where we currently live.
Our First home in Midland, Texas.

Ultimately, I think that when people ask you where you’re from, their generally trying to get a sense of your cultural background, and to make a connection with you. One benefit of jumping around a lot, is that you cast a wider net for making connections with different people. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m ‘from’ west Texas, but after spending 2 ½ years there, I can strike up a conversation about wind storms, desert heat, and Red Raiders football. And the fact that I’m ‘from’ so many places says a lot about me as well. There is a lot of information packed into my well-rehearsed ‘home-town’ response.
Exploring our new "home town".
No, I wasn't born and raised in any one place, and It's likely that my children won't be either. Heck, even Bailey has lived in 4 different cities in the 6 year span of her life. But there are a slew of Military, Oilfield, and Diplomat brats who can all relate to living a transient and nomadic life. 
Mike the Tiger has always been an important landmark in my life.

It has become hard to use geography to define myself, so instead I generally identify myself in terms of my friendships, my marriage, my family, and my relationship with God. Ultimately, my citizenship isn’t in New Orleans, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, Midland, Houston, Scotland, or even the United States. Ultimately my citizenship is in heaven, and I believe that God has used my frequent sense of displacement to remind me of that fact. Because the question of where you’re from is never as important as where you are going.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20


  1. Well stated my darling daughter. You are from Louisiana but your citizenship is for sure in Heaven. Amen

  2. You do know that your Mom is one of your blog followers. Just trying to figure out how I can post comments back to you.

  3. I sure love the circa 1983 picture of Steve! I sure do struggle all the time with this same question too! We will just go with Louisiana for the time being!

  4. Wow - something I never really thought about; have just taken for granted the sense of home, but as they say 'home is where the heart is'. Not too long after being born you also spent time in Saudi Arabia. - Aunt Beth

  5. This post is hilarious to me because Matt's dad worked for Mobil so he grew up all over and whenever someone asks him where he's from I cringe. He has this shpeal that starts I was born in Dallas and when I was 1 we moved to Norway....and I've heard it 50 times. I always say "why can't you just tell them your dad worked for big oil and now you do so you've lived all over". He doesn't want to do that :)

  6. I'd say the question is even more loaded when you "look" a certain way, and if it doesn't add up to where you're "from." (I'm half-Mexican, but most people aren't satisfied when I say I grew up in Oklahoma!) Also, my husband and I have very different backgrounds so it's always a mouthful to get the story out. My current favorite question is: Where do you live? Still not sure how to answer it...