Saturday, February 9, 2013

"Where are you from?"

The answer to this commonly asked question is a good jumping-off place for any conversation since it indicates so much about a person. Once you know a person’s hometown, you are better acquainted with their roots, what kind of childhood they might have had, etc. For most, the answer to “Where are you from?” involves three or four words, neatly rolling off the tongue without much thought.

… this question momentarily stresses me out.
There is really no good, concise way for me to answer this.

Dad and me :)

Do I say Iowa? I was born there and lived there for seven years. Several vignettes are tucked away in my memory from that little farming community. Tornadoes, falling and getting stitches by my eye, playing with Mom’s piano students, my kindergarten and first grade teachers, running through friends’ cornfields and petting their baby pigs. Lots of snow.
But I moved when I was seven.
We were only in California for one year, and I don’t remember too much from that year, except that it was Very Different from Iowa and my parents didn’t like it too much. And there were drug deals being made in the tunnel by my elementary school playground. No one in my second grade class knew what those were but they seemed like a pretty big deal. That was also the year I stopped being afraid of having my school picture taken (no joke- every school picture before that, there are tears streaming down my face). I learned how to better stand up for myself in California.
beginning viola in New York- I liked to practice on the sofa!
Then we were in upstate New York. I loved it there. There were plenty of neighborhood kids my age and we played together a lot. I’m Facebook friends with lots of people I went to school with there. I started viola there. We moved away when I turned 12. Am I from there? Not really- even though I remember and love so much about it. It was just a stop on the journey- not really the beginning- but a very memorable period in my life.
my first guinea pig- Snow Stripe- and I in New York

Then came Arizona. We were only there for a year, but I remember much more about that year than the year in California. I really began thinking like an individual there. I began to grow up when I was in Arizona.
I most often say something like, “I’m most recently from Baltimore, Maryland.” I spent five years there, and that’s where I starting loving viola and really growing in who I was, physically and spiritually. I went to an arts high school in the city for four years, and I feel like I still know the city streets like the back of my hand from walking everywhere, occasionally taking the bus, looking for food with my trio and friends… But am I truly from there if I wasn’t born there?
Now both my parents live in Texas. My dad moved here when I was in high school in Maryland, then I came to college here, then my mom came here. After I came to Rice, Maryland was no longer “home”, further complicating matters.
(and no, we’re not a military family. Both my parents are musicians!)

If I say I’m from Iowa and nothing else, people assume that I came to school directly from Iowa. If I saw I’m from Maryland, people assume I was born there, and they also assume that I go there for vacations from school- neither of these is true! Not to mention the fact that if I say I’m from Iowa or Maryland, people have no idea that I’ve lived in many more places than just two. Each place, no matter how short or long I lived there, has contributed significantly to my experiences and who I am. If I don’t mention the places I’ve lived (or at least note that I’ve moved a lot), I’m not being honest.

Of course, moving a lot has not been difficult all around. I’m really, really glad for all of the opportunities that came up for my family and me because we moved. I probably wouldn’t be at Rice now if we hadn’t moved out of Iowa. Frequently moving requires an amazing amount of flexibility and a healthy appetite for adventure. You can’t get too attached to any ideas about what the future is going to look like. You have to learn to be able to find creative ways to move on and adapt to a new situation. This is basically the life of a musician- really any artist. Convenient, no?

So where am I from? I can honestly say that God only knows. And I’m learning to be okay with that.

More tomorrow…

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