The hardest thing about writing my first column for the Lariat was not picking a topic or writing the paragraphs; it was when our editor-in-chief asked me what location I wanted to use as my home.
Since I was born, I have moved more times than I can count on my fingers. From Florida and California to Michigan and Connecticut, I have traversed the country.
Inevitably, I will stumble over the question, “Where are you from?” My typical response is, “I’ve moved a lot so I’m not really from anywhere.” However, Taiye Selasi, a writer and photographer who graduated from Yale but describes herself as a local of Accra, Berlin, New York and Rome, presented a different way of thinking about home at the TEDGlobal 2014 conference when she told the audience, “Don’t ask me where I’m from. Ask me where I’m a local.”
I have never seen a lecture that resonated with me as much as her speech. Since watching a video of the presentation, every time someone asks me where I am from, I debate the same question she asks, “How can a human being come from a concept?”
Rather than one house that I can call home, I look instead to the experiences that make up the feeling of home. Where do I know the most people? Where can I successfully navigate without a GPS? Where do I know the hole-in-the-wall locations for the best donuts or Thai food?
Selasi’s three-step test for locality involves these same concepts. She calls them the three Rs: rituals, relationships, and restrictions. By defining locality as the places that we have habits, emotional connections, and the freedom to be ourselves, we are able to shape a more complete view of our past and identity.
My identity has been changed in some way by every location that I have experienced. Living in Alabama gave me an affinity for sweet tea while living in Michigan exposed me to brutal truths that accompany life in subzero temperatures.
While I love this life of change and new experiences, I sometimes wonder what I have missed by not living in same location for an extended period of time. I then realize that this unconventional transience has equipped me to adapt to a multitude of circumstances, and I’m grateful to have been shaped by Waco along the way.