Photo and text by Gabrielle.
I like to listen to NPR when I’m in the car, and during the local news updates when a story about California is being shared, I’ll be listening in a removed way and then all of sudden think: Oh. I live in California! This story is relevant to my life! I’m a Californian!
And then I think something along the lines of: That is so strange.
A related thing happens when Ben Blair is driving and I look up from the passenger seat and see a landscape or cityscape that is completely unfamiliar and think: We’ve only been in the car for two minutes, but I wasn’t watching where we are going and I have no idea where we are and would have to use GPS to even point myself in the right direction if I wanted to head home.
Basically, I’m in a funny situation where my home city and home state aren’t quite home yet. It’s not that I have regrets or complaints about moving here, it’s just that everything still feels so new and 7 months in I’m still playing catchup.
This really hit home during my trip to Washington D.C. (I’m still here in D.C., writing this from my hotel room and will head back home today.) On Tuesday, I had the chance to lobby the senators and representatives from my state on behalf of ONE.org. ONE is bipartisan so we were lobbying both republicans and democrats. As we were being briefed the day before, I experienced a moment of identity crisis. My thoughts were something like: I’m lobbying for California? I haven’t even registered to vote there yet. I’m still using my Colorado driver’s license. I have only a slight handle on Bay Area geography — on which cities are where. And I have no idea who my congresswomen/congressmen are!!
Luckily, California happens to have some famous names among our representatives (think Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer), so I actually do know many of my representatives, and my identity crisis was short lived. I reminded myself I was born in California and lived there till I was 5. I learned to speak my native language in California. Growing up, I spent time in California every year of my life and both of my parents were born and raised in California. So I have deep roots in my new-again state.
This trip has been a good reminder to me that it’s time to dive deep and really get to know my state and my city; to learn the problems and passions of California and of Oakland specifically, and to care (or care more) about the outcomes of propositions and proposals that affect my slice of the country.
It also made me curious: Have you ever been in the same state-of-mind that I am in now? Have you ever been surprised that you are a resident of the state/country/city you reside in? Have you ever felt like a resident of no place at all — sort of detached from where you live? I imagine not everyone experiences this sort of thing. Where do you consider yourself a resident of? What are your thoughts?
P.S. — I’ll give a full report of my trip to Washington later this week (or possibly next week.) But have to tell you how lovely it was when it snowed yesterday. The flakes were giant and fluffy and since Oakland doesn’t experience the sort of winter I’m accustomed to, it was a treat to have snowflakes on my nose and eyelashes.
114 thoughts on “Resident of California”
I do relate to the sort of out of body experience when relocating, even after several months/years. Especially when you’ve moved to some place that is familiar but new. I moved to the US from Canada. Same stores and roads and billboards etc. After running errands, I would pull out my wallet and think “why do I have all this American money?”. And, my home town has transformed so much I feel like a stranger when visiting. So, although somewhat unsettling to not have strong roots, it is also a freedom to look at anywhere as a potential home.
Oh yes! My hometown as well. It’s grown so much that I have to get directions sometimes as I seek out an address. I always feel so embarrassed!
I absolutely understand how and what you are feeling. My husband and I just moved home after three exciting years in Dallas, Texas. We both grew up in Utah and loved it. We instantly feel in love with Dallas and all things Texas however the pull to return to the motherland beat out our love for the big D. We’ve been back in Salt Lake City for six months now and as much as I love it…it still feels weird. Weird to drive on familiar streets. Weird to eat at our favorite places. Weird to be the Utah version of me and also the Texas version of me all at the same time. My mind continues to flash back to scenes from my day to day life in Dallas. Nothing significant. An isle of the grocery store. The off ramp near my office. My old kitchen sink. Weird. I keep thinking that my two lives will in time completely reconcile themselves but its all together very strange and I’m taking comfort that someone else is wrestling these emotions as well. Thanks for sharing and best of luck feeling more home…at home.
I understand that sort of rootless feeling. I think it wasn’t until my daughter was born (after I’d lived in New York over three years) that I started to feel like a New Yorker. And even after over 20 years of being away from my home state of Oklahoma, I still feel a bit like an Oklahoman too. It’s like carrying different geographic slices around with you wherever you go.
“It’s like carrying different geographic slices around with you wherever you go.”
Well said, Amy. I still feel a bit like an expat, and a bit like a Coloradoan, and a bit like a New Yorker and a bit like a Utahn.
I completely understand the rootless feeling, but it’s more of a memory since I ended the peripatetic wanderings of my youth fourteen years ago (we didn’t expect to be here that long!) If you haven’t already, I highly recommend visiting the California History Museum in your new hometown. Also, Fort Sutter, in the heart of Sacramento, is a good visit as is the gold rush town of Columbia over in the Sierras. Maybe an Olive Us episode on learning local history?
Thank you for the suggestions, Amy! Can you believe I haven’t visited a single museum since we moved to CA? So unlike me! I need to get on that.
First Sundays at Oakland Museum of California are free and the new exhibits are really wonderful. Also, we often do the Bank of America promotions. The first weekend (Sat or Sun) of every month if you show your debit card you get in for free. A bunch around Sacramento/Oakland/SF/South Bay do it, our favorites are Chabot Space (Oakland) and Legion of Honor (SF).
The Chabot is wonderful and one of my favorite Mother’s Days was spent at the Lawrence Hall of Science above the Berkeley campus.
I just moved to Lyon, France a month ago, and almost EVERY day I look out our apartment window at the Alps and say to myself “I live in FRANCE! Those are the Alps!” I’m from San Diego but have lived in Columbus, Ohio for 5 years and now here. I don’t know where to call home, but I find myself pining for that Southern California sunshine all the time. You post hit home today!
*your post :)
Hah! I know that feeling. Pretty much any time we took a drive in our region of France, Ben Blair would stop the car at some point, gesture toward the amazing vista and say: Behold! Normandy.
I identify with Idaho and Utah (born in the former, school and married in the latter), so it strikes me so odd that my babies were born in Indiana! I have Hoosier babies, and when we fly into SLC, those mountains aren’t “home” for them.
Being a political scientist, figuring out the politics of a new place is always tricky. My friends are involved with politics out west, so I keep up with those, plus trying to learn new scenes here. It makes me realize how those people we all like to laugh at on late night TV for being ignorant about government might not be so ignorant. Maybe they’re just trying to learn a new place!
So true! Until we moved here last July, only one of my kids had visited California — so strange for me to imagine! Not only is CA my birth state, a good chunk of my growing up revolved around California.
Fortunately for you, in your own backyard is perhaps one of the finest collections of California Art, History and Natural Science – the Oakland Museum of California is a FABULOUS resource for jumping into the state with both feet – it’s just undergone a remarkable renovation and is a great way to spend the day (the kids will love it too) learning and having fun!www.museumca.org
It is on the top of my list! I’m heard so many great things about the museum and simply haven’t made time to visit. Sounds like a must do!
Ahhhh yes this sounds do familiar, as a “third culture kid” born in central America, raised in England, who studied in the US and with French parents … well let’s just say that now I’m living in Paris, I very often get that brief “where am I again?” feeling. It takes a few seconds to re-adjust, it’s almost like waking up from a deep sleep and not being sure where you are. The way I see it, it’s a luxury to be able to see things this freshly, and to be mindfull of what we’re experiencing at that very moment rather than taking things for granted. I sometimes see parisians pass a gorgeous building with an unfazed look, come on people ! This is place des vosges, drink in how beautiful this place is !! I Don’t know how long this feeling will last, but I say, enjoy the ride, mindfullness and adaptability are great skills to have !!
I love your comment so much! When my French friend was visiting New York City with me, we were walking on the Brooklyn Bridge and she felt the same way about the New Yorkers as you feel about the Parisians — she couldn’t believe they were taking for granted their daily walk across the bridge!
And I love this thought:
“The way I see it, it’s a luxury to be able to see things this freshly, and to be mindful of what we’re experiencing at that very moment rather than taking things for granted.”
I had a similar experience, but once removed. I was born in Michigan, but moved to England when I was 10. Over twenty years later, when my children were little, it kept surprising me that my kids were English and spoke with English accents! So funny as I had been here all that time! :-)
Oh man. I can’t even imagine if my kids native language was different from mine (even in accent). It’s definitely something I’ve never experienced.
I’m experiencing this right now with my kids! My husband and I have Australian accents (although we’re constantly mistaken for being British!) and my kids are slowly developing American accents after living here 2.5 years. I’ve noticed little changes in the way they speak (short “a” sounds in words like “bath” where I’m used to a long “a” sound) and they certainly use a lot more American words than I do i.e. sidewalk, fries and trash instead of footpath, chips and rubbish. Overall though I don’t really think they sound all that different as the changes have been slowly creeping in over the years and they’re with me all the time. However… when a friend from home visits or we chat to someone on Skype they ALWAYS comment on how American the kids sound! And at the same time I wonder when my friends/family developed such strong Australian accents!
I had this! I was that child that spoke in a British accent and my parents had American accents overseas. So funny. Be sure to record these memories since they may grow out of it if you move. I have very few recordings of little me with that accent and I wish there were more.
Actually I’m pretty sure its law in most states that you must legally change your drivers license & official residence with 6 months of moving. Unless you’re a college student you should not be getting away with a previous state license Gabby (or anyone!).
I have lived in DC for 8 years (I hope you had a fun few days here!) but I am FROM Massachusetts. All my family still lives in and around Boston and so do most of my best friends. I struggle with feeling like the place where I live and where I’m bringing up my family is home, which can be really hard. I read the Boston Globe online, but not the Washington Post–although I’m trying to get better about that. Truthfully I don’t think I will EVER not think of Boston as home. But I live in DC, and I do like it here, and I really believe you should try to “bloom where you’re planted”, so I’ll keep working on it.
“Bloom where you’re planted” is something I subscribe to as well. I really like your example of reading the Boston Globe instead of the Washington Post. I know Ben Blair keeps up on the newspapers of his home state (Utah) as well.
I live in Washington, DC (and am so sad I didn’t realize until now you were here–I would have loved to take you out to lunch!) and it’s one of those cities where the majority of people are from somewhere else (although that’s changing), so I think I’ve always felt that it can’t be “home.” We also live in a small urban apartment and for whatever reason that can feel transitory too, even though we’ve lived in it for 7 years and have no plans to move. But I’ve realized that my kids think of it as home: when we go away and then come back to our apartment, my toddler son will always yell, “Home!” or “My school!” when we pass his preschool. I guess it’s one of those situations where too much knowledge of history can complicate the present? Yesterday’s snow was beautiful–I’m glad you got to experience it.
That’s funny. It generally takes me about a year and half to feel at home where ever I have moved to. I get excited learning about my new area but at the same time it’s unsettling. Just the other day I was driving around thinking- boy if we move I’ll miss this place. We’ve lived here for 8 1/2 years. I’m still figuring out back roads from town to town- which is always fun! I think once you get a hold of the back roads and rely less on the GPS it’s comforting. However, I, too, am an East Bay resident and I still need my GPS whenever I set foot outside my comfy tiny town. It is what it is- an adventure :)
You might want to check out my sister’s book…Journey Around San Francisco. She has a series, and they encourage you to look deeper into the areas around where you live. It’s written as an alphabet book, but it’s for older kids (and adults!). Here’s a link if you’re interested: http://www.amazon.com/Journey-Around-Francisco-From-Journeys/dp/1889833495/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1393439238&sr=8-1&keywords=journey+around+san+francisco+from+a+to+z
Thanks for the recommendation, Heather!
It really hit my husband (born and bred Utahn through and through) when or son was born. “Our son was born in Florida?! He’s a Floridian? He’s never seen snow?” Haha. When we’re out of town and people ask us where we’re from, he still had a hard time saying Florida and not Utah.
Yes. I grew up mixed between Virginia, USA & London, England. Now I live back in Virginia but in a new city. After 3 years here I finally feel like it’s home but for a long time since high school (basically my whole 12 years as an adult) I never got that true ‘home’ feeling – and that felt okay with me; it wasn’t a bother. I still wish I could feel much more of that home feeling someone day – maybe if I make it 10 years in one spot I will. How long does it take?
“How long does it take?”
I wonder that as well. I suppose it’s different for everybody and for every place. And I also suppose that for many people who stayed in one place from birth to college, nothing ever quite feels like home compared to their home town.
Yes, I do agree! I have been living in MN now for about 8 years and I still feel this way! When I first moved here, I met a woman who told me that it takes 7 years to feel at home in Minnesota. After having hit that mark, I would have to agree with her. Although I don’t think I will ever feel completely at home here (I am from OR originally), there can also be an upside to that. I still feel like living here is very novel. Because I never quite feel “at home” I reside somewhere between vacation mode and knowing how to get around… I can still see the city I live in with the new eyes of a traveler. Thanks for posting – I think about this idea a lot and wonder if others also feel “without country”. Because I have been here for a while, I also feel like a tourist when I head home to Portland.
“I met a woman who told me that it takes 7 years to feel at home in Minnesota.”
I think that’s so charming. I love that she figured out 7 was the magic number. I spent a week in the Twin Cities when I was a teenager and fell in love. I could totally imagine myself living there. Of course, that was in the summer. I’ve never been in the winter but I hear it might make me change my mind. : )
I’ve lived in MN for 14 years. People in the Twin Cities tend to stay here (which is a good thing!), so it feels like there are two kinds of people: born-and-bred Minnesotans and everyone else. It can be hard to become part of the community when so many people have their families and friends-since-kindergarten around. However, I’ve made wonderful friends here who all happen to also be from other places, too.
Please go register to vote this week! I am always surprised to hear about peoples voting or non voting habits. It is literally the first thing I do when I move. I am 47 and I have never missed voting, not even once. It’s so basic to being an American for me. I vote in every little local and/or special election no matter what.
Ha! Our family just moved to San Diego from Chicago in September (after a stint in Boston and London, but born and raised in the Chicago-area), so I DEFINITELY get this! Was just saying something like that to my daughter on our walk to school… sunshine, short sleeves, palm trees, mountains, cute little bungalows, no snow…. in February? say what? But we love it… yet Chicago feels like the “home” I’ve left, and California still feels so new and adventurous. I love it…and there’s enough room in my heart to have a home sweet home in a few different places ;)
Chicago is nostalgia, California is possibility.
And we have the best state flag of all. ;)
Really enjoyed reading this! My husband was born and raised in California and I in Idaho. We tease that we (parents) are not Utah Mormons. But we’re proud and happy to have raised eight Utah Mormons!
I’ve had several experiences where I learned early that each morning I needed to remind myself where I was, what day it was– and what language I needed to say “Hello!” in. I’m a champion in getting lost!
I was thinking of you when I wrote this post! I remember you telling me that your mother always favored Provo over Idaho Falls but ended up raising her family in Idaho Falls. And that you were the opposite and felt more drawn to Idaho Falls than Provo, but ended up raising your family in Provo.
I experience this feeling almost daily!
I was born in Chicago, but raised outside of Philadelphia. I went to college in Boston, lived in Los Angeles for a few months, moved back to Philly, then now live in San Francisco.
I always had a dream of living in California, so I often find myself thinking, “Oh my gosh. I actually LIVE here?!” The palm trees do that for me. The views of this city still take me by surprise as well–especially the mountains. It’s so foreign from the Philadelphia landscapes I was so used to, that it catches me off guard all the time.
My license is still PA, and even though I know I’ll be in SF for a while, I struggle with changing it. That seems like such a big tie to cut from the home state I identify with so much. But it’s also exciting! I love this new city of mine, and I want to embrace it fully. So now that I am, indeed, a resident of California, I need to register to vote and dive into researching the issues, opinions, politics, etc. of this state. Because I know that’ll make me feel much more a part of it.
Thanks for writing this post. It’s always helpful to know someone else is feeling the same way.
I know what you mean about changing your license. It was really hard for me to give up my New York license when we moved to Colorado. In fact, I didn’t do it until a month or so before we moved to France. I finally changed it because I was told I had to in order to renew my passport in Colorado.
But I still have my no-longer-valid New York driver’s license in my wallet. Along with my valid one from Colorado.
wow, this has been on my mind as well. i’ve been living in oakland for the past 18 years, longer than anywhere else. i was born in seoul, raised in ny and now living and raising my kids in oakland. i wonder at what point can i say i’m from oakland when people ask where i’m from.
I think 18 years is plenty long enough to be official. : )
I know the feeling you describe. I’m from Texas and lived there until I was 25, the first 18 years of that time in my hometown in west Texas. Now I live in Maryland, which is a state I had literally never thought about until I came here to look for an apartment after getting a job offer I couldn’t refuse.
I met my husband here, bought my first house here, and gave birth to my son here. I have been here 6 years and it definitely does feel like home now. I know the character of the various neighborhoods and suburbs, the back roads to everywhere I need to go, etc. It certainly feels more like home than my hometown, which has changed so much that I barely recognize parts of it.
But I still have days when I think “Maryland. Really? Who would have ever thought I’d build my life in Maryland, of all places!”
I was born and raised in eastern Canada, but have now lived in the US longer than I lived there. And I have an American husband and four American kids. But while watching the Olympics it was amazing how powerful my connection to my home country still is. I cheer for Canada all the way and if they are beating the US in hockey that’s even better!!!
Boy, I can totally relate to that post!! I’ve been living in France now for 2 years and we are planning on staying here for a while – but just today I was asked where’s home? Good question – Is home where I grew up – Western NY and lived from age 6 to 18? and then again ages 22-25? Is home where I was born and lived the first 6 years of my life – Cincinnati, Ohio but went back to visit often to see extended family? I home where my husband & I lived for almost 13 years and had our kids – Saratoga Springs – NY? Tough one to answer…and or is home where we live now, as we plan on staying.
I think home is where ever you choose – where your heart is..in the moment. I know my oldest daughter at 13 still refers to Saratoga as her home. As far as answering the question of where I’m from..I’ve often chosen Saratoga Springs – as it was the most recent and for me – we were there long enough to have 3 kids, settle in and truly know the area. I guess when one starts being out on their own, working, raising a family or just settling in…the area starts to become home. But at any point, we could have more than one home right? France doesn’t feel like home yet – but I do notice each year – it becomes easier and more comfortable.
Great post and question!!
I’ve had many of those same feelings just moving from Northern California to Southern California! I think I’ll always think of the Bay Area as home, even though I will probably live in SoCal the rest of my life…
I think about how brave you are all the time. What a big change you made, Robin!
I know the feeling! We used to live in Seattle and when we first moved there, a city I had always wanted to live in, I would have to pinch myself because I couldn’t believe I was finally there and I love it so much! Now we move all the time due to my husband’s job. Since leaving Seattle we have lived in Asia and Europe and are now in DC getting ready to head to Africa. It can be tricky, but I try to live where I am, if that makes sense. It’s so easy to always be looking forward or looking back and to forget to appreciate where you are.
i spent my first 30 years in california then moved to colorado 3 1/2 years ago…i’m still adjusting.
i don’t feel like i know colorado the way i know california.
there are so many cultural, geographical, and historical things you just absorb when you spend a long time in one area and i’m learning that the confidence i had there may or may not happen here…but i’ll enjoy life here anyway.
I’ve been in San Francisco since October. Before that, it was Boston for two years and Georgia from birth to 2011. I’m experiencing the same feeling — I don’t feel connected to my ‘place’ yet. I don’t know the names of the highways, or how long it takes to get down to south bay. I couldn’t tell you the names of more than two trees or plants or flowers around here. I feel totally out of my element. I never felt this way in Boston, but I think it’s because the Eastern Seaboard and its geography stay relatively the same from south Georgia to the tip of Maine. I’m lost out here on the West Coast.
Thanks for the inspiration to pick up some reading materials to learn about this state, Gabrielle. As always, you are uplifting, inspiring, and hit the nail on the head.
So true! East Coast and West Coast are so vastly different — in weather, plant life, culture and overall attitude.
When we first moved here, Ben Blair and I kept noticing how kind and helpful and friendly the retail employees in Oakland are. Since it’s such a big city, we assumed people would be sort of “hardened” and gruff, which is typical of salesclerks in New York. But Californians have a totally different attitude. I wonder if the mild weather is the game changer. : )
I am originally from the PDX area, lived there for 22 years, more or less. I have been living in nyc for 18 years now and am so used to the pace of city living. Had a business to trip to SF and getting Starbucks in the morning was so painful for me. The employees seemed to move so slow, they liked to chit chat and say ‘Dude’ in a long drawn out way. Strangers also feels suspiciously friendly when I go back to PDX to see family and friends.
A friend once told me you need to give a new city 5 years to figure it out.
We are on opposite paths Taylor. I grew up in SF, moved to Atlanta for 2 years and have been living in Boston for 20 years
We’ve been in the Bay Area for coming up on ten years now, and I STILL feel that way. Maybe because it’s so huge and there is still so much to discover? After recently buying our first house here, I have to remind myself all the time that this is home — not a temporary stop on the way to Somewhere Else. Strange to consider oneself a Californian when you identify with other places. (For me, New Mexico — where I was raised.) Stranger still to think that I’m raising my daughters to be Californians!
I’m with you on it feeling strange to raise your kids as Californians. My husband and I are Australian and we moved to the Bay Area 2 1/2 years ago when our daughters were almost 5 and 1. Our eldest daughter still identifies as being Australian but our youngest has spent most of her life in California and doesn’t really remember anything from her first year of life in Australia. If you ask her where she’s from she usually answers “America”! She just thinks of Australia as some place on Skype where her grandparents live ;)
Daughter number 3 is due in two months and the idea that one of my children actually will be American is pretty surreal!
We were expats in London when our two oldest children were born. We lived there for 4 years. When we moved back to the Seattle area (where we both grew up), it took quite a while to settle in. Detached is exactly the word for how I felt at first. The house we live in feels like home now, but I definitely feel a connection to London…I think, because we have such dear memories from our time there.
I’m glad you blogged about this and am happy to read the comments. It feels good to know I’m not alone. We moved from Louisville, KY to Murfreesboro, TN a year and a half ago for my husband’s job, and I still feel like I’m in a weird limbo of not belonging anywhere. Louisville is my hometown, and while hardly a metropolis, it is a cool little city, and my roots are deep. It also happens I was pregnant with twins when we moved, so relocating and settling in has been a challenging experience to say the least. I still feel bereft of my social network; getting out and about to meet people is VERY challenging when you have twins (to put it mildly). I’m grateful that my husband got a good job that allows me to stay home with our twins (which is what I chose to do), but leaving your hometown of 40 years is very hard. I’m hoping this year will see me settling in and making some new friends.
Oh man. I’ve never lived anywhere for 40 years. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to leave such a place — especially when you’re going through a major life transition. Twins!
I’m wishing luck and I’m wishing you an amazing playgroup with women that will become dear friends.
Thank you very much, Gabrielle. I appreciate the support more than I can say. During this time I have been so grateful for the Internet. It has been a comfort to connect with likeminded people. xx
I completely understand that whole “Wow, I live in California” feeling. I’ve been here two and a half years and it still feels surreal that I actually live here, especially coming from the other side of the world. For the most part I actually kind of forget that I even live in America! Every now and then I’ll spot an America flag on a building and think “Huh, what’s that doing there?” and then the lightbulb clicks that I’m not at home in Australia anymore.
I find that I mostly get that surreal feeling when I see major landmarks, like the Golden Gate Bridge – even though I can actually see it from my apartment building (when it’s not foggy like it is today). The closer I get to famous landmarks the stronger that feeling gets. I’m always in awe when we cross the Golden Gate Bridge, no matter how many times we’ve done it. I felt the same way when we lived in Sydney. I crossed the harbour every single day for work but the feeling of awe that I felt when driving across the Sydney Harbour Bridge never lessened in the 5 years we were there.
“I find that I mostly get that surreal feeling when I see major landmarks, like the Golden Gate Bridge”
Totally! Anytime we get a grand view of the Bay — which is basically every day — it’s surreal. And for sure, every time we cross the Bay Bridge.
I’ve lived in California my whole life but I moved from Bakersfield to San Francisco for college, and now find references to San Francisco so bizarre! In music, in books, on the internet, the news- I have to remind myself I live in this beautiful city!
I loved this article. I am about to move to San Diego and am already feeling that way. I lived in New York City for 17 years then moved to Connecticut and now we are off to California. I never in a million years thought I would be living in San Diego one day. Though I have always thought it would be a great place to live. I am such and east coast person. But regardless, I am excited but feeling really weird too. You made me feel a little less weird today. I appreciate your honesty.
Just wanted to say good luck in San Diego! You will love it. I transplanted to LA 23 years ago and love it. We have family down in San Diego and it’s always a great place to be!
“Ni de aqui ni de allá” (not from here nor from over there) I was born in Brussels, from Uruguayan parents but have Italian passport, then I lived in San Salvador, Guatemala, Maputo, my university years were in Belgium and England (Portsmouth and Nottingham), mi eldest brother lives in Brussels, the other one in Madrid and my sister is in Moscow. I have two Guatemalan kids, but can not vote here in Guatemala (I vote for Europeans elections and Italian ones). Every time I’m asked where is home, I have no really a straight answer. So yes, I can related with you. But in the same time “It’s a small world” (and a beautiful one!!!).
“Every time I’m asked where is home, I have no really a straight answer. ”
We definitely felt that in France. We had only lived in Colorado for 1.5 years when we moved to France, but before that we’d lived in New York for 8 years. So New York still felt more like home. Plus, our French friends were more likely to be able to connect about famous NYC versus less-famous Colorado. So I would usually say we were from New York, but then would feel like I was bluffing. Generally I just felt awkward answering that question.
Gabrielle, can you do a post about what it’s like to relocate? You’ve done it so many times and my husband and I are considering a gigantic move with our young family (gigantic to us, anyway) from New York to California – and who better to ask??? I’m so nervous to actually make this dream a reality, since our families live only 5 minutes from us and neither of us have ever lived far away. What are the pros and cons of relocation? What makes it something worth doing? I’d love to hear all about that.
That’s a good idea, Lindsay! I’d certainly be happy to share my own experience, and hopefully readers would chime in with there’s as well.
Best of luck on the coast-to-coast move. Very exciting!
It’s become a very big topic in my family, “what makes HOME?” I am a Portland native, now living in Oakland. Even though I have been in Oakland over four years, many things about Portland feel more like home than Oakland does. I have tried to visit everything amazing about the Bay Area but still at times feel like an outsider (certainly not because of culture, the people are so darn inviting and curious about others, just because of my own self identification). My children are both born in Oakland and I have to say many times I think it’s funny that they act Bay Area (marvel at the rain, for example, what a strange idea!). My husband is Canadian and immigrated as a teenager and his home is wherever he hangs his hat. The strangest thing of all is when I go to Contra Costa Valley, where I work. I think because Oakland is cooler and more coastal I don’t notice the change as much. On any given day Oakland just looks like an amazing sunny spring/summer day in Portland, though in actuality we get about 300 of those days in Oakland and 15 days like that in Portland. But when I go to San Ramon the air is dry and warmer, the trees are more desert/exotic, and the brown/yellow scheme really hits me like bricks and says “this is a different place” to me. I am very sensitive to it still and have always marveled at those who can carry on in places around the world without being so stuck on surroundings. I’ve decided I will always be sensitive and notice the changes and that’s okay. I’d also like to go travel the US in a van and see what more of the nuances of our country are like in person.
In the six years we lived near Chicago, I never felt connected to the city or state, although I was in love with our little town. Our house was home, but our state and big city seemed to belong to true locals who could recount the details of every political scandal in its colorful history.
But when we moved to Portland, Oregon two+ years ago , I had the opposite experience. Despite never having been here before, the moment our plane landed, I knew I’d come home. Now, I’m just biding my time to slap on a ubiquitious Oregon bumper sticker and hang local art.
Laura, I love that! So wonderful that you found a place that instantly felt like home.
After reading through the comments, just wanted to say I love what everyone has to say. You have asked a great question, Gabrielle, to get all of these responses. Also, it seems like many people who are attracted to your blog originally may have an interest in this area, possibly because it is a part of your story and you are willing to share. Thank you for you (and the reader’s) depth and vulnerability.
One of my favorite things is being in either of my “homes” (Oakland or Portland) at Christmas. It seems like everyone from afar comes there for the last two weeks of the calendar year to celebrate different holidays and I definitely see more looks of wonder at the every day things that I am used to seeing. What fun!
I feel that I have many ‘homes.’ We relocated from Nashville to Minneapolis and have enjoyed being tourists in a completely different climate and culture! My parents and grandparents are all from the D.C. area so that will always be the truest ‘home’ for my memories! I also consider family vacation spots as a ‘home’ such as Seaside, Florida and Hitlton Head, North Carolina – they all have a special meaning.
I grew up outside of NYC (in Tuckahoe actually, I think I read that you guys lived there?) and now, because of being in the military and then married to someone in the military, we’ve moved a lot. But we’ve spent a lot of time in Texas and so I have basically adopted it as my sort-of-home state. But I still say that I’m going “home” whenever I go back to NY and also say that I’m going “home” when I’m coming back here. I’m involved in advocacy that involves legislative advocacy, and just like you, it feels odd to be lobbying to Texan politicians. Every time I have a moment where I think, “But I’m not even FROM Texas.”
What seems odd to me, and I feel a little guilty about sometimes, is that my kids won’t have a “home” state/town/street like I do. One was born in NY, one in Maryland, and two in Texas. My oldest is 8 and has lived at 7 different addresses already (thank you, Army). I wonder what they’ll say when someone asks them where they are from…
Yay Tuckahoe! We lived there for 8 years. I would take the train to Grand Central for work. Good times.
Wow, I can totally relate. I grew up in South Carolina and now live in Canberra, Australia. Even more than thinking “wow, it’s so weird that I live here/listen to accents all day/have colourful Australian money in my wallet, etc.,” I now often think “Wow, it’s so weird that it ISN’T weird that I live here and no longer notice accents/money, etc.” It actually now stands out to me when people have American accents on TV and I think “wow, they sound so funny” (totally disregarding that it is exactly how I sound). My hometown has changed a lot and my sister and parents have moved away, so even when I return there it doesn’t quite feel like home. Since having a baby away from family in Australia, it doesn’t really feel like home here either. Sometimes I feel like a person without a country…
Yes… I still have my old driver’s license and I moved more than 10 years ago. First I forgot to change it, then I kind of liked the old one, then I didn’t care, and then I forgot about it once again and now – I wonder what reason I should tell them for not changing it before ! Nostalgia ?!
Hah! I can totally relate.
Do your kids feel the same way? I moved about every three years from age 7-14 and it has always made me feel like a resident of the U.S.A. and not any particular state. When people ask me what my “hometown” is I always hesitate and rephrase the question as, “Are you asking me which state was my favorite to live in?”, in which case I almost always say New Jersey. We lived in the foothills of the appalachians and it was so peaceful and green everywhere. I’ve never gotten to go back but when I remember it I feel the most “me.”
I like the idea of being a “resident of the U.S.A.”
I can relate. I lived the majority of my life in Georgia, and then about four years ago now, we moved to Texas. It’s not THAT different – we’re still in the US and still in the South – but I don’t really think of myself as a resident of Texas. I forget how long we’ve been here. It feels weird to me that my children will see themselves as Texans, because they’ve now lived the majority of their lives here. I think we could live here for decades, and I would still think “I’m home!” when I go back to Georgia.
I feel this way on a constant basis! I moved as a child 6 different times with my family, then married an Air Force pilot 15 years ago, and we are embarking on our 9th move this summer. As soon as I make friends and get the lay of the land, we move. Oddly enough though, I’ve enjoyed the adventure that has taken us all over the states and overseas. As the saying goes, “Home is Where the Air Force Sends You!” :)
I moved to California from Ohio eight years ago and I still refer to Cincinnati as “home.” I didn’t grown up there, but I became an adult there. It where I experienced true joy, deep love, and personal pain for the first time. Although I have had amazing (and heart breaking) life experiences since, there’s something about Cincinnati that feels safe and comfortable. Sometimes I wonder if it’s not the city I hold in my heart as “home” but the memory of my life while I was there. I love California and my family is here so I’m not going anywhere any time soon. But I will not be surprised if I eventually find my way back to the midwest.
I’m a bit different. Aside from 2 years that I spent in London, I’ve lived in Texas my whole life. But I don’t feel like I really belong here. I mean, I’m Texan, you can hear it when I talk, and I don’t hate it here, I just don’t feel like it’s me. But it is, what it is, right? :)
I can really relate to that, even though I’ve only been relocating within a “small” European space within England and Germany with its 16 different Federal STates. Like at the moment I live in the northernmost state Schleswig-Holstein, but in a part that nearly touches the city state of Hamburg, where I work and which has a totally differnt school system for instance. I was born and mostly raised in Braunschweig in Lower Saxony, but as I have no family there anymore (and my parents came from England and the Rhine Area respectively), I sometimes feel pretty rootless. Love the idea of different geographical slices in oneself!
I was born and raised in Colorado and am now living and raising my family in Madrid, Spain. It even feels odd to write that. Don’t I still live in Colorado? I have been here for four years now and sometimes feel like I just got here. I read the back home newspaper more than the local press. I listen to NPR and we speak English at home. When people ask where my kids are from I think, “well Colorado of course.” Then I remember one has never been and the other has only visited twice. It is hard to shake your roots and even more so when you have kids.
I grew up in some small towns in southern Nevada (Panaca and Pahrump), went to school in Utah for 8 years and lived in Dallas for a year before we moved to Japan. We’ve been here 3.5 years, and it’s mostly home for us. I still have those surreal moments when I see Mount Fuji while driving to Tokyo, or any other number of little things.
Though we were not military, my husband works as a teacher for military base high schools, and so we will spend his entire career overseas. Our poor kids get confused sometimes as to who they are, and sad when friends move regularly, but they are developing quite an appetite for geography. They’ll get to be those kids, who when asked where they are from, can’t give straight answer.
After two years of living here we went back to visit family in Texas and Nevada and people kept asking “When are you moving back home?” And all I could think was,”What? We do live at home.” I especially felt it when we did arrive back in Japan and a breathed a sigh of relief to be “home.” Japan is home now, mostly. But with all the perks of constantly being surprised by where we live and what we get to experience. Two of our kids were born here, and though we speak barely any Japanese (with the exception of my husband), it’s home because it’s where we choose to be as a family.