As someone who has lived in more than one part of the country in my 30ish years, it’s the question I hate answering the most. Be it in a professional, dating, or casual social setting, I am never quite sure how to respond to the “Where are you from?” inquiry.
Do you mean where do I live now? Where did I grow up? Are you just asking this question to be polite and impatiently waiting through my jumbled answer until you can turn the conversation back to you?
Because I don’t feel right answering this with a single location. It feels by lying, by omission if nothing else. Because I am the person I am because of every single state that I have called home.
Yup, all four of them.
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Washington is my heart. This is my core. This is where I was born and raised and the state I called home until I was 18. In my heart of hearts, I will always be a Pacific Northwesterner. I always get excited when I meet other Washingtonians, tend to bond easily with them over shared experiences, beautiful hikes and commiserations about rain (and related stereotypes.)
I am truly from Washington. All my professional sports loyalties still lie with my Seattle teams. I am liberal, love both the water and the mountains (’cause WA is blessed with both in glorious excess) and have a bit of that hippy-dippy chill PNW attitude.
Washington is still home to much of my family and where I mean when I say I’m visiting home. It will always feel like home to me… the deep saturation of greens and the melancholy grays, the embracing density of cedar trees and the smell you get when the tide is out. Those are home.
But like many 18 year olds, I needed to leave the nest and decided to go out of state to do it.
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Montana is adventure. Montana is where I first stepped away from my family and the safety of home, heading off to college in a state where I didn’t know anyone. I don’t think I’m shocking anyone when I say that college was a strong influence on defining who I am… pretty sure that’s a fairly common experience.
Montana is where I started to define me as an independent entity, which included rugged outdoor adventures.
Montana is overwhelmingly beautiful natural landscapes and a sky that is truly bigger than anywhere else I’ve been. I learned to take natural beauty into my heart like a drug, the serene magnificence and isolation becoming my own happy little place. My inherent PNW casual, relaxed, go-with-the-flow attitude was magnified and expanded upon in MT.
If I had ever been vaguely prissy, that was quickly crushed by a desire to see more, go further and try more. And lots of times that involved getting some dirt on your clothes.
Montana made me adventurous and outdoorsy.
But I had more tempering to do to me (and a grad school offer I couldn’t refuse), which required a change in location.
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New York City
New York is independence. I had thought I was an independent entity in Montana, but there’s nothing quite like a devastating breakup and a move to the opposite side of the country to a giant city that you had never even visited before to make a girl feel solo. But in an empowering way.
New York forced me to think about fashion and then inspired me to want to think about fashion. It was about style and confidence bundled together, not just clothing. This outdoorsy girl accepted wanting the urban as well as the natural. My childhood love of the arts came back with a vengeance with all the art museums and music and Broadway.
The density of the built environment recalled the density of my WA forests, but in shiny steel and glass. The frenetic energy and constant motion of the city was as energizing and soothing to me as the peaceful MT wilderness, no matter how opposite they may seem. It was home in so many ways, just in different materials.
I took the vibe of infinite possibilities and potential that New York exudes into my very being. New York was optimism and and escape. It was a refuge in a time I needed it. It was a step outside my comfort zone and an adventure in an unknown environment, one of my favorite experiences. More than a desired experience, for me it’s a need.
I could have stayed there for an extended time, constantly inspired and surprised and lovingly annoyed.
But professional opportunities relocated me again.
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Colorado is a conglomeration. It’s a funny little city. (Hey, I moved here from NYC… EVERYTHING is a little city after that.) It has a little bit of everything along with a bit of a confusing identity to the outside. Kinda sounds like me.
Colorado has been about trying to find a balance of all these aspects of me. Like Washington, we legalized pot and have some of that liberal, hippy vibe in hidden corners. Like Montana, the natural beauty and possibilities for getting my rugged adventure on are endless. And like New York, there are enough artsy-fartsy city related things to keep me content.
And Colorado has been the perfect place for some self-editing. With a buffet of the things I enjoy available, zeroing in on the important ones becomes easier. So does eliminating the things that used to make me happy but are better left in the past.
It’s a great place for me to get a little bit of everything right now. It’s a good base for me to meld all the parts of me into some sort of cohesive person.
Probably quite overdue at 30+ years old, huh?
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So I’m a resident of WaMtNyCo.
That’s the honest truth.
Every single one of these locations has shaped me, along with the people I met, experiences I had, and place I was at in my life. I love all of them equally but differently, kind of like having kids. (I think. Or so I heard. I don’t know how kids work.)
What I tend to do when confronted with the question “where are you from?” is pick one of them. And yes, my answer varies dependent on the situation and my mood. But I don’t feel like it’s lying. I’m from Washington and from Montana, I’m from New York and Colorado.
I am where I am from. All of the places.
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(Confession… I didn’t totally accurately describe my relocating… I spent a couple years in CO after MT, then went back to MT before moving to NY, only to end up back in CO. WA-MT-CO-MT-NY-CO. That seemed like it would be overwhelmingly confusing and really besides the point I was trying to make. But I like to be honest on here, so there you are.)