“Where are you from?” It’s such a loaded question. It really should be an easy one to answer, but as one who has lived across the country and even overseas, it has always been pretty complicated for me.
“Well, I live in Michigan, but I am from Louisiana.”
“Oh, I’m from Flint. Well, actually we live in Fenton. It is between Detroit and Flint, but closer to Flint.”
My answer usually depends on who is asking. When someone in Michigan asks, they typically get the former answer. Often, I’ll give Michiganders the hand – you know, the mitten-hand – and point to “that spot.” Anyone who lives in this state has an easy geographical reference spot on the mitten-hand, should a querant need further direction.
Something strange has happened to me lately, though; my answer has changed. This year, I’m celebrating 20 years in Michigan. So now, unless someone is really digging, my answer is simply “Michigan” or “Flint.” I am completely comfortable with this. I no longer feel the need to add a disclaimer. I have a one-word answer. If you’ve lived in the same state for all or most of your life, this may not sound like a big deal; but to a former Army Brat, state-hopping, broadcasting career type, this is monumental.
In the event my parents or friends from my hometown of Baton Rouge, LA see this column, I want to clarify that I am proud of my homeland. That said, the feeling of being rooted in a community is an amazing gift. In the early part of my life, my family lived in Germany, Indiana, Texas and other spots on the Army base circuit. Being the “new kid” during my kindergarten through fourth grade years was sometimes tough. Wandering from state to state as a college student and while establishing a career could get pretty lonely, as well.
For 11 years, I have called the greater Flint metropolitan area – okay, Flint – my home. I not only feel that I’m part of it, but I feel like a hometown girl. Most people set out on a life’s mission to find their perfect romantic match. I have always looked for a permanent home. Now, I have one.
This is not just a matter of the length of time I’ve lived in Michigan; it is about the sense of belonging. I have friends here. I have both surrogate and biological family here. Not only have the people in my home-away-from-hometown made me feel welcome, I have allowed myself to step inside, unpack my bags and settle. Somehow, this land of Flint vs. Detroit-style Coney dog wars, cars, apples, lakes, snow days and the Weather Ball just works for me.
So many clichés come to mind, but “Home is where the heart is,” seems to be sticking with me. Maybe next time someone asks me where I am from, I will hold up my hand – in full mitten form – point to my spot and say, “Right here. This is where my heart is.”