Four countries, nine cities, twelve houses.
This is only a rough breakdown of the lifestyle I had for the past twenty years but there is no number that can account for the endless boxes, hours of travel, and heartbreaking goodbyes that go along with the process.
I’ve come to believe that I was born to always be on the go. Ever since I was eleven months old, I was destined to live a lifestyle of impermanence.
Even though I should be quite accustomed to constantly moving around, I still find that change is difficult.
Then again nothing was ever easy about starting over, leaving everything you love, getting thrown into an unfamiliar environment, and repeating the process in three years time, once you have grown to love the place you live.
But through every move, my biggest challenge has always been meeting other people.
I am extremely introverted and reserved. I appreciate the thought of what others call “friends” but in reality, I know I feel better when I am alone. I am in no way a good conversationalist; I can converse when spoken to, but I run out of things to say after thirty seconds.
However, what I hate most about meeting people is that damn question that follows after asking my name:
“Where are you from?”
It’s a simple question, but it’s one I have struggled with for years.
The easiest answers I can provide are two of the following: where I lived last, or where I live now. But even these answers can create more questions, and usually do most of the time.
For example, when I lived in Hawaii I was “from” England. But when I say this with my noticeably non-British accent, I receive a series of puzzled faces.
“Oh, but your accent…” Yes, it’s American.
“You’re not British…?” No, I’m Filipino.
“Well, can you speak Spanish?”
“Don’t people from England speak Spanish?”
For the record, no, they do not and yes, that was a real conversation. I am aware that I am obviously not British; I am a Filipino-American who resided in England for four years and sadly, I am not fluent in Spanish.
My folks moved to Las Vegas while I was studying in Hawaii and once they settled into the house, I had the opportunity to visit two months later. On my way there, I sat next to a lovely couple whom I engaged with in small talk.
I forgive them for the innocent question, and I apologize for stumbling when they asked me, “Visiting or residing?”
At the time, I had never been to Las Vegas before but because of my family and winter break purposes, Las Vegas was “home” to me. So I nearly replied by saying “both” but I didn’t; I just wasn’t in the mood for explanations, especially for strangers I would never see again.
“Residing,” I answered, before falling asleep on the plane window.
Even as I settle at my new university in London, I still stutter at the question because I still struggle with a reply. With every move, I constantly need to ask myself, “Where am I from now?”
I was from England when I lived in Hawaii, because that’s where I lived before moving. Based on that rule, I am now from Hawaii. But when I go home to Las Vegas for breaks, I’ll be asked why I’m not going home to Hawaii. So now I’m from Las Vegas, but it doesn’t feel right to be “from” a city that I have only lived in for four months out of the year.
No matter what answer I provide, I set myself up for stereotypes and expectations I am unable to fulfill.
Hawaii is an island girl with the components of saltwater hair, sandy toes and aloha spirit. England is a cultured snob who drinks tea, eats scones, and possesses an accent that everyone dies for (except for the British.) Las Vegas is a wild party girl that familiarizes herself with a life of drinking, gambling, and casinos.
But behind the stereotypes, I am none of those.
I know nothing about beach sports like surfing or paddle boarding, and my rather fair complexion reflects no sun rays. I don’t have classy speech or an accent everyone dies for, even though I like my tea and scones every once in a while. Also if you really knew me you would know I don’t drink, I have never attended a party that wasn’t for birthdays, and I will most likely lose at the casino games I have never played.
It is difficult for others to understand that where I am from is not a definition; it is a story.
Who I am isn’t where I’ve lived…who I am is what I am made of. And what I am made of is adventure, independence, and nomadic spirit.
So if you ask where I’m from, here is my story; written with stamps as my chapters and passport as my book.
Once upon a time, I was born in the quiet city of Chesapeake, Virginia. I was barely one year old when my family and I made our way to Idaho where I endured my terrible twos. I moved to Japan at the age of four, which became my first overseas home. I started school in Yokota, moved to Misawa in the 2nd grade, then I was whisked away to Germany after I finished grade school. I spent my middle school years exploring Europe with my family, an adventure that didn’t stop even when I started high school in England. I found myself in paradise spending my first year of college in Hawaii, then I returned to England where I will call home for the next three years. Who knows where I will end up after that?
The more places I go, the more I will write. The beautiful thing about this story is that there is no end. Even as my passport gets filled, my story goes on. There are many more adventures to be had before happily ever after, and I look forward to see where else it will take me.