As traveling musicians we meet new people just about every day. Most of those people ask us one simple question, which gets harder and harder to answer.
“Where are you from?”
It seems like such a reasonable question to ask, and most people are expecting a simple answer in the form of “City, State.” Or country. Or region. Or suburb of (fill in the blank). It’s like when you ask someone how they’re doing. Ninety nine percent of the time you’re looking for, “Fine. You?” Then once in a while you get that person who goes into how their dog peed on the carpet this morning and so they missed the bus and were late for their colonoscopy but they still had it done and they’re doing just fine except they’re still a bit sore.
I have become that person. A couple days ago when asked where we are from, my answer was something along the lines of:
“Well, this morning we woke up in Knoxville but we just came from Asheville and a couple days ago we were in Johnson City but I grew up in Chattanooga and Kim is from a little town in Massachusetts about 45 minutes south of Boston called Holliston…” And then I got self conscious and wondered if they wished they hadn’t asked.
Sometimes I take a different approach with varying degrees of success. Back in January, I went to visit a teacher from high school. We’d been out of contact for about five years, and he had no idea what I was up to. Unsurprisingly his first question was, “So where are you at now?”
I understood he wanted to know where I was living and rather than give the long-winded version, I simply replied, “Right now, I’m here.” He sort of chuckled.
Once we got to talking about my life, my traveling, steveNkim, and all that, he had this moment of realization. “Earlier, when I asked you where you were and you said ‘here,’ at first I thought you were joking. But now I see you really meant it.”
Kim and I are always on the move, and there is no single place that we return to each night. Right now we are typing this in my old bedroom at my parents’ house. It’s comfortable and nice to be here, but at age 23, this place is no longer home. Yet I am home.
The challenge of being on the road is to arrive as fully as we can in each moment. My home is some combination of where I am, whom I am with, where I have been, and whom I have met along the way. It’s not so much a place as it is a feeling or way of being. It is a culmination of things that have been, coming together in the present moment and propelling me into the next. Home is not a place where I will eventually arrive. It is an ongoing creation that is shaped each day by how I relate to those around me. I hope that whatever else it involves, “home” will one day include a fairly consistent place that I return to and a group of people that I see on a regular basis. But for now, when people ask me where I am from, I will continue to struggle to find an answer that is both honest and of a socially acceptable length.
So next time you ask someone where they are from, keep in mind that you may end up hearing about their colonoscopy.