People out here ask me all the time, "Where are you from?"
It's a perfectly reasonable question, especially because here in San Francisco most of the residents have relocated from somewhere else. The concentration of the young, attractive, healthy and progressive is just too high for any natural urban evolution. We tend to flock here in droves, and so when people inevitably ask me the big question, I usually just say Wisconsin because it's shorter than the truth.
While Wisconsin is certainly where I was born, and where I was raised, and where I go when I'm going Home, the truth about where I am from is somewhat more hairy. I feel like I did a fair amount of growing up in New York State, where I went to school, in New York city, where I first learned to know a city, in St. Petersburg where I learned to go it alone and mostly, in Philadelphia, where I made my first permanent home.
These days there seems to be a great divide between the people I know who pick up and leave to travel the world and live out of some combination of a tote bag, a bicycle pannier and a backpack, and the people who go somewhere to stay, to sign a lease and build a life in a single place. While both have attractive qualities, I've always fallen quite softly into the latter group because of how happy I am to settle in. Knowing my neighbors, building a routine, hanging up curtains and learning the best parts of a city are things I count as blessings.
And yet, I have an eagerness to live in new places, which has now carried me into my fifth urban residence since high school. So when I'm asked where I'm from, I have such a compound sentence at the ready. "Well..." it always starts. "Wisconsin, via New York State via Philadephia."
My hybrid loyalties to both the nomads and the settlers has made this most recent move bittersweet. And this weekend we're headed to Philly and it will be my first visit since leaving that great city last August. A tiny part of me is nervous that I'll feel more at home while I'm there visiting that past-tense landscape than I do out here in California. It will be a good litmus test for me, to sort out my mix of feelings around our move to the west coast; the lingering regret over leaving a life we loved and the strength of conviction that we did the right thing, for the sake of the adventure. Change, I'm always reminding myself, is a good thing.
I'm excited beyond words for these next five days, whatever the result. I think I'll count happy visits back in the "Advantages to Moving" column of my pros and cons chart...or would if I had one of those.