The American from New York with a Southern Accent
As you may or may not know I am from the Bronx, but I'm not a New Yorker. I was born here in -94 and left for Northern, VA when I was nine. Though many of my childhood memories are a mix of NY and VA, whenever anyone asks me where I'm from I always say, "New York". It's where the majority of my immediate family once lived, and the place that holds all my memories of us being together.
Here is why I don't call myself a New Yorker. New Yorkers are a special breed of people. The city has its own distinct heart beat, and living in the boroughs you encounter a different way of life, which in turn creates a very distinct mindset in those who inhabit its very tiny apartments. I do not posses that same mindset. People interact and connect here in a way that is different than what I have become accustom to, and incomparable to anywhere else I have been.
This is not a bad thing, just different.
My tie to city started when I began the fourth grade in VA. You can say I made an impression on my new little suburban friends. I was loud, said whatever came to my mind, and did random things like the split in the middle of class. Yes, people thought I was a little strange, but to me, these things were completely normal (ever been inside an NY public school?). For the first two, of the six, years I lived in VA I wanted to go back 'home'. I wanted to be with the rest of my family, and not be the "loquacious one who talks about NY too much", as one classmate put it. (freaking fourth graders). After a few years, I eventually fell in love with my life in Virginia, and I thought we would be there forever. While there we moved a lot, and I went to three different middle schools and two high schools during freshman year. I always managed to adapt, but still a part of me wanted to go back.
When we moved to Mississippi, after my freshman year of high school, I often referred to it like moving to a different country. Yes, we were still in America, but this was not the America I was used to. I felt like a transplant being rejected by its new host. Both sides were trying, but my antigens didn't match up.
In my mind, I said when I was old enough I would go back 'home'. Where I understood the way of life and what people were talking about. Where the way of living and mindset of those around me didn't feel so peculiar. Where I didn't feel peculiar, and didn't have to explain everything I did. "But for now, I'll adapt." It is what I always told myself. I think anyone who has lived so many places and had to readjust their way of life multiple times, will agree it is the only way to thrive.
I did a lot of traveling in college and studied abroad in Spain for a few months. The only time I ever felt a sense of home is when I traveled. During my time in Spain, it felt like I had finally found my glass slipper, but here I was expected to be the foreigner, the tourist. It was the role I had been playing my entire life. When I returned from Spain back to MS I had some serious reverse culture shock. You go and immerse yourself in this new culture and experience a multitude of unfamiliar yet exciting things in such a short period of time, going back to daily life isn't the easiest.
I remember when coming back to school I felt the need to rediscover what I had found in Spain, and the search for 'home' began again. I continually thought about where I would live after I graduated. The possibilities of what I could do if I could just find that place that screamed 'this is it, home'. Then I could finally unpack my bags and exhale.
Put down roots because the shoe would finally fit.
Looking back I think my mistake was associating 'home' with a city or place rather than the memories and people dwelling their. I tell mom all the time that I am grateful for all the places we have been able live because of the people I have had the pleasure of knowing, befriending, loving, and whose lives I have gotten to be a part of. These experiences have redefined my cultural identity. The places I have lived came with people who left their mark, and they are apart of me. I hope, in some way, I am a part of them too.
As you know, I live back in NY now, and no it does not feel like 'home' -yet. I am in no way disappointed. It is just a matter of time before the elements that make any foreign land feel like home begin to fall into place. Along the way all things unfamiliar start to become your own. New and strange faces turn into the shoulders you cry on and the hearts you confide in. Their language soon becomes yours, and home is no longer a geographic location, but the faces you see when you speak that places name. Finally, you realize that home was never a place to be found, but a place waiting to be made.