I get this question a lot from a lot of different people – co-workers, fellow students, friends of boyfriend, random people in bars, etc. And sometimes I feel like I’m alone in this when I feel like that’s a complicated and multi-faceted question.
I grew up in Massachusetts so obviously everyone just says “Yeah you’re from Massachusetts, you’re a Mass-hole.” I don’t walk around with a Boston accent and constantly looking for chowdah. Only people from Mass understand that not everyone from the state has that oh-so-endearing accent. But that’s an entry for another day. I grew up in Western Massachusetts (South Hadley). Extremely close to the boarder of Connecticut and in farm country in Mass (just ask about our asparagus… it’s seriously delicious). But I can always remember me never wanting to be from there.
Since I was a teen my sights were set on moving West… to California specifically.
I started surfing (in New Hampshire… I don’t totally recommend it. Cold water and small waves.) and everything I wore was from Hollister because it said California on everything. Not only California but t-shirts that had sayings “Take Me to the West Coast” and “Here Today, Gone to Cali”. I wore them proud. Then when I was 16 I was lucky enough to live in California for the summer at summer school at Stanford University. There I met people I really connected with and I could be myself around, unlike home. Some of those people I’m still friends with today. One even became my college roommate (co-worker and really good friend to boot). At home, everyone in high school thought I was a loser. But in Cali I was able to be myself and people liked me. I realized I wasn’t the one with the problem.
Obviously that summer only confirmed that I belonged in California and I had to move immediately after I graduated. I got into the University of San Francisco and when I was holding that acceptance letter in my hands they were shaking and tears of joy came to my eyes knowing that I would be rid of the place I have come to loathe so much – and honestly rejected me in my eyes.
While I was in college I had an internship in Chatham, MA on Cape Cod. Chatham rivals San Francisco and Barcelona (for me) as one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. My grandmother lives there and I have been going to Chatham since I was 6 months old. Chatham has always been a second home for me. But it wasn’t until the summers of 2008 and 2009 that I actually spend the entire summer by living there with my grandparents and really feeling part of the community in Chatham. It is a very small town with very few people who live there year-round, so whenever I return I see a lot of familiar faces and it feels what I always wanted Western Mass to feel like when I went home, a happy, welcoming experience. When I am in Chatham I never want to leave. It’s one of the places I would move to when the next chapter of my life begins. Last year my parents sold their home in Western Mass and I no longer had my childhood home to go to (I will miss that house, just not the location of it), making my grandparents’ home in Chatham the one I have been coming home to more than any other. And unlike South Hadley, be proud and look back in fondness when I say I’m from there.
I returned to San Francisco for my senior year and I felt so lucky I was able to live in San Francisco for four years and that I felt so at home in that gorgeous city. But graduation loomed it’s ugly head (why can’t college be forever?) and I had to make a career decision. I love sports (another entity that I felt accepted me as well) and what other outlet to strive for if not ESPN? ESPN is located in Bristol, Connecticut. 45 minutes away from where I grew up. Low and behold the World Wide Leader took an interest in me and decided to hire me. So back to Western Massachusetts I go.
Being back after leaving for where I thought I really belonged was tough. Especially after telling people I would never return, and that was my intention but if ESPN calls… you go. It was like a knife in my side if I went to the market and someone would say, “I thought you were still in California?” After I was asked for the 100th time I made the move to Central Connecticut.
I moved to Middletown, a small college town with a happening downtown. Bristol, CT where ESPN is located doesn’t have a ton going on so not the best for someone new in town looking to meet people. Of course I work nights and weekends so my friends consist of mainly ESPNers. Which is fine by me! I have made some amazing friends who have become my little CT family.
Shortly after moving to CT I met my boyfriend Eric (also an ESPNer) and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve never met someone so generous, kind and respectful of me and my ambitions. We ended up moving to Unionville, Connecticut not too long ago and I love our condo we share together. It feels like home when I’m there. Probably because I share it with him.
So I guess all of this that I’m trying to say the question “Where are you from?” shouldn’t be such an easy answer. I mean am I wrong when I say I’m from San Francisco? A place that accepted me with open arms, a place I was finally not only able to be myself but become the person that I am today. A person that I like. If I chose to stay in Western Mass for college like a lot of my classmates I can’t say I would have had the same outcome. Am I wrong when I say I’m from Chatham? I don’t think so. I basically grew up there and have had so many happy family memories… and I complain about the tourists there in the summer. Only locals get that, right? Am I wrong when I say I’m from Connecticut? A place I never wanted to live, ashamed to get a CT license plate (because CT have notorious horrible drivers), but now embrace. No obviously my residence is there now and it isn’t just a place I go to rest my head after a long night’s work, it’s a place I share with someone I love and host friends that I love. CT also has never made me feel unwanted. It has turned me into a cyclist (when I can), a hiker and a Farmington River tuber.
So the next time I’m at a party and someone asks, “Where ya from?” and I answer “San Francisco” or “Cape Cod” or “Connecticut” none of those answers are a lie. Those are the places that make me who I am and the places I am proud to say that I’m from. I’m also not wrong (and probably more accurate) if I say I’m from Western Mass. But the look on my face doesn’t sell it – people just know it’s not the place I want to be from. So I’m mandating, just like I identify myself as a tall, blonde female, I identify as a San Franciscan and a Cape Codder and a Connecticut-ite? Connecticutan? So Western Mass is simply the place I was born, the other places, the places that I’m from, made me into who I am.