So, where are you from?
One of my favorite things about teaching is getting to meet new students. One of the first questions I ask them is, where are you from? I have been pondering that same question for myself. It is more complicated than I thought. What is home? Where you were born and raised? Where you were educated? Your nation of origin? Where you currently live?
I was born in Idaho and lived there until I was 19. However, I often felt I didn’t fit in. We lived in a tight knit Mormon community with an economy that was largely agricultural. My family was divorced or “broken,” (a term often used then). We did not fit the Mormon family mold. I had no interest in farming, hunting, fishing, football or anything that mattered to so many of the people I grew up around. Being different did not give me a sense of confidence, independence or uniqueness. I felt odd, out of place, and like a misfit. I never wondered what was wrong about everyone else, I figured something was wrong with me.
I left home for a two-year church mission to Canada at age 19. I often tell people I was born and raised in Idaho but I grew up in Canada. This is where my confidence first came. I realized I was at home and at peace with my belief in God. I found success and fulfillment with the work I was doing. For the first time in my life, I realized I liked who I was and what I was doing. It also helped that others saw my abilities and found value in them. Looking back, it’s no surprise I chose religious education as a career.
My college life, early career, marriage and children also came while in Idaho. So, it would be easy to call that place home. Yet, I always felt an odd tension with my political beliefs and the deep conservatism of Idaho. I often felt I had to explain myself to others.
Shortly after finishing my PhD, we moved to Indiana for my work. I loved Indianapolis! I found a love of sports I didn’t know I had. Also, living in the middle of the country, it was easy to make trips and see parts of the nation we hadn’t seen. During our Indiana time, we visited all the continental United States together as a family. I learned to love travel and seeing new things I had never appreciated before.
Three years ago, we moved to Massachusetts. I have fallen in love with New England! I have loved living in the city! I love the diversity of perspectives and experiences people have–the exposure to art, language and culture. It has been thrilling. Many people in Massachusetts share my political beliefs but don’t share my religious convictions. Part of me feels like I never fit anywhere, but long to be everywhere.
Of course, to me, home is where my family is and that’s now complex. I have children and family in multiple times zones–traveling to see them is time consuming and expensive. Being all together is far too infrequent. I can honestly say I have loved everywhere I have lived. I have grown and learned something from everywhere I have been. So, I guess I know where I have been, and where I am now. What that means going forward I’m not sure yet but I’m pretty sure I will like it.