I have an aversion to meeting new people (and the inevitable small talk that ensues). Not so much because I hate people or being around them, but because I tend to be socially awkward (not to be confused with being shy, which, I will always argue, I am not)! I dread potentially having to come up with something witty to say to someone I don’t really know; I dread the questions–which in my head feels like a very crucial interrogation.
One of the questions that I dread the most: “Where are you from?”. It is often followed by an awkward pause, then a smirk, and sometimes tentatively being answered with a question, “Well, what exactly do you mean?” I know that to some people the question sound very simple, unless you’re like me and you’ve resided in more than one place and can identify a couple of places as home.
Are they just making nice and expecting a short answer? Did they detect my slight accent and was wondering where it’s from? Is it because I look obviously foreign and they want to know my ethnicity? Do they want to know where I was born? Or where I grew up? Are they asking about where I lived before I moved to Canada? Are they asking about the place I’ve spent most of my life in? Do they want a complete, itemized list of all the addresses I’ve resided in? These are some of the questions that quickly run through my head when asked where I’m from.
It might make me seem silly and borderline over analytical. However, at 24 years old, I’ve lived in 2 different continents, 3 different countries, 4 cities and 7 places of residence. And no, this is not my humble-brag kind of way to say that I am well traveled or cultured or anything like that at all. I just moved–sometimes out of desperation, sometimes to escape problematic situations, sometimes because I just had to.
I’d imagine the question was probably a lot easier to answer back in the day, when moving or immigrating was less feasible and a more expensive endeavour. However, these days we are less conservative; we often move to seek better job opportunities, to live closer to our school, or simply follow our hearts.
It’s probably safe to assume that there are a whole lot of people who have an even even more complicated answer to this seemingly simple question than I do. Here are the 3 ways I usually choose to answer the question anyway, in case you were wondering:
- I was born and raised in the Philippines.
- I consider Texas to be where I “grew up” (read: matured).
- I’m currently in northern Alberta (where I hope to finally claim roots).
So a little tip to those who like asking where one is from or to those who cannot relate to an expat’s dilemma, it helps to be a bit more specific with what you really want to know. As for me, I feel that where we’ve been and where we are, play a very integral part in the fabric of our identity.
Am I overthinking this?
Where are you from?
This is the first of a new series, “Our Roots”, which will chronicle the journey to finding the courage to stay still. Our Roots will share stories about the motherland, the few places I’ve been, the many places I would want to see, and (finding and settling at) the one place I want to stay. It’s where I’ll try to make sense of where I’ve been, where I am, where I hope to be and who I am as a result.