When people ask me where I’m from I say that I was born in Kentucky, but that I grew up in Florida. But since I returned to Kentucky to complete college and start working, I always felt (and feel) a bit conflicted in my loyalties (and my response). The answer always seems much more complicated than the question was ever intended to be.
In China when asked this question about origins, I once used the Chinese words I knew for Kentucky “Ken De Jie” but forgot the most important part of the phrase. I forgot to insert “Zhou” at the end signifying the state. After the laughter died down, I realized that I had expressed that I was from KFC, the fried chicken restaurant, rather than the bluegrass state that The Colonel made famous.
The confusion of place is compounded by the fact that I now live in a suburb north of Seattle called Edmonds. When non-locals ask where I’m from (usually meaning “where do you live now”) I usually say I’m from Seattle since it is a place with name recognition. But Edmonds is truly what I consider home.
“And how did you get there,” strangers will ask.
“My wife is from Edmonds,” I tell them. “And that’s with an ‘o’ not with a ‘u’.”
“And you met her there?” they’ll inquire, attempting to shove the pieces together.
“No,” I usually reply, “we met in Colorado.”
Though I am a geographic conundrum, I am whole-hearted in my adoption of this place near the Puget Sound. My wife grew up here. My daughters were born in the hospital I pass daily on my way to work. My commute outlines favored sidewalks and small-town traffic peccadilloes. It’s perhaps too easy for me to roll my eyes at all the retirees clogging the local coffee shops or scorn the inane “police beat” in the Edmonds Beacon. But Rockwellian utopias just pale under the imposing yet awe-inspiring brow of the Olympic mountains. Rick Steves may be known for travelling the world, but he understands the right place to come home to–even if it does rain 8 months out of the year.
Despite feeling grounded in this quaint and oh-so-bourgeois suburban enclave, I still wonder if this is home. Do I have a home? Home is where the heart is right? But it’s also where the heart beats and slows–where the pulse is felt in the toes and temples.
Will I feel the urge to grow roots and actually dig in? The thought of purchasing a house and embracing “permanence” is exciting (and attracts me to it) but produces tinges of doubt and anxiety, too. I am very comfortable here for the time being, but will I be this comfortable in three more years? What about five? If anything my history has been more defined by migration, by the change of scenery, by a practiced nomadicism than stability. But is that how I want to live and raise a family? Not really.
But what will U-Haul do to survive without my frequent contributions?
I guess we shall all see.
And in the words of that sonorous bard from Mötley Crüe, Vince Neil, “I’m on my way / Well, I’m on my way / Home sweet home/ Tonight, tonight / I’m on my way, I’m on my way / home sweet home.