Bird on a Bare Branch

Attempting to fling a frail song in my little corner of the world

American Abroad July 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jen @ 3:38 pm

I had an ah-ha moment in Jo’burg yesterday as I was pondering why it felt so normal and comfortable to be there and in England.  Here’s what I came to:  When I’m overseas I’m from someplace, granted it’s from someplace else, but when I’m in the US, I’m from nowhere.  Overseas I’m from America.  That’s what my passport says, and that’s where my people are.  Being from America is enough.  Sometimes I’ll meet another American or someone who knows the States who wants to know specifically where I’m from.  And I can say Houston, and it’s okay.  It’s what my driver’s license says.  It’s where I work, live, worship, and play.  It’s what I consider home right now and have for the last seven years.

But when I’m living in Houston, I’m clearly not from there.  I didn’t grow up there.  I didn’t go to high school there.  Definitions of origin and belonging change.  It’s not enough to just be American.  I need to be tied by birth or formation to a specific state or town or neighborhood or high school.  And I’m not.  So in America I’m not from anywhere.

In other countries I am.

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6 Responses to “American Abroad”

  1. Dianna Says:

    Whoa! I can totally relate, in a way. It’s like being an Air Force kid – when people ask you where you’re from….you can tell them where you were born or where you’ve lived…no close relatives (other than siblings) and that’s it. Very interesting thought.

  2. Renee Says:

    I grew up in small town Ohio. I can say I’m from Mt. Vernon. But I don’t think that defines me. To me, what’s more important is where I’ve been. And that’s just one of the places and only part of who I am. Put them all together, and that’s where I’m “from.” I think it’s the same for you. You’re “from” is a beautiful mix of America, Middle East, Africa, and England.

  3. Renee Says:

    . . . and Honduras.

  4. Renee’s comment is beautiful. I hope that gave you a good feeling about your situation. Grandma H.

  5. Kacie Says:

    And…. you know you’re a foreigner. And, the identity of a foreigner is broad and flexible and you can easily fit within it. Whereas, in America as an American, it feels quite narrow and confusing and I struggle to know what my identity is.

    I much prefer being a foreigner.

  6. Jen Says:

    Absolutely, Kacie. The expat identity makes so much more sense to me than the American identity. I don’t think I’ll ever figure the latter out.


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