I've learned that being asked that question by Native Alaskans holds a little more weight than when asked by others. For them, where you are from describes what heritage and culture you come from, who your family is, and how you were brought up. It is not just a location on a map, but a definition of your very self. It is living up here that has really made me reflect on my answer to their question, and I always feel guilty when I am not able to give them a definitive answer like, "Hooper Bay" or "Unalakleet." Because then they would just nod and understand the unspoken. But I am not from a village in Alaska, and I have lived many places in my short, young life.
I had this revelation today, as I pictured my life over the next 20 years and thought to myself, "Wow, at 26 it's already a long-winded story of where I'm from and have lived, so what is it going to be like when I'm 46?" I feel bad for people who ask me that simple introductory get-to-know-you question. "Uh, well, do you mean where am I from right now, or like where I'm originally from, or do you mean where did I go to college, or do you mean where is my husband from, or do you mean where have I lived over the past 10 years?" You see my dilemma... it's not an easy question for me, nor is it for any military family that has traveled from Timbuktu and back.
We have only been enlisted for three years (this weekend is Jordan's anniversary actually). But already we've lived in three different places, and we know we are being moved to location number four next summer. If this live-in-one-place-for-less-than-two-years pattern continues, I've calculated over 10 homes we will have settled into and moved from by the time we're 42, add a few if Jordan stays in a little longer than 20 years.
I realize most of you who are reading this already know "where I'm from", so you would have no need to ask me this question, but I publicly warn any poor polite person who doesn't know what they're getting into that this simple question is never going to have a simple answer. You might get something like this:
I'm from a small town in MA called Southwick no not from Boston at all yes I realize I don't have the accent because Southwick is in western MA if you look on a close map of MA you'll see a little jog that dips into CT that's Southwick just north of Hartford but I went to college in Keene, NH where I met my husband who is from CT we lived there after college for a year before we got stationed in Omaha, NE where we lived for two years and then moved to Anchorage, AK which we thought we'd be in for six years but the military loves to surprise us so we're being moved next summer after only two years here yeah it's a bummer because we really love it here but yes this is the life we signed up for thanks for pointing that out to me hopefully we'll be moved to VA or CO or CA but we won't know for sure for another six months and yes we kinda get to choose but again, the military owns us so thanks again for pointing out that I have no control over my whereabouts. (Breath)
So if you're thinking of asking me or anyone else this simple question, don't say you haven't been warned.