My roots are in the air

How hard it can be to answer the simple question “where are you from”

There are these basic default questions that everyone knows and asks: How old are you? What grade are you in? How many siblings do you have? Where have you traveled to? Probably the most frequent one asked is “Where are you from?” Most people can answer those questions in the same default mode as the other ones asked. So can I, for the most part.

I am 17-years-old, a junior in high school, I have three siblings, a dog and have traveled to a bunch of places; my favourite place being Florence, Italy. Simple.

But the last one starts to make me ponder.

I have lived in Berlin, Washington D.C, San Diego, Philadelphia, Whistler, New York and now Oak Park. And every summer I “live” in Germany. Now the question starts to curve and wind, eliminating the option of a direct path of a one-word answer.

Originally I am from Munich, Germany. I am a German citizen, speak with a native tongue and have a bavarian dialect. Excluding my parents and siblings, all of my family lives there, on the same street.

Leading back to the question “where are you from,” there are two answers you will get from me. A short and long one.

Short: I am from Germany.

Factually, there is nothing wrong with that statement, but I feel something missing from that answer.

Long: I am connected to my life in Germany, but I love my life on the other side of the ocean just as equally and as vividly.

I have memories of different places that have shaped who I am, that are places that I consider myself to be from. The first time I went skiing I was 4-years-old and in Germany. Every summer I see the picture of mini-me sleeping on my grandpa’s dog Bila, my best friend. My town’s bakery owners awaiting to see us after a year, to see how much we have changed.

I met Hogney, the best horse in the world in San Diego. We would always go pick lemons in his owner’s backyard afterwards. I remember feeling alienated in Philadelphia, not being able to fit in.

Whistler was the best time of my life. We had heaps of fun, skiing, mountain biking, village strolling, swimming and making snow cones from the 4 meters of snow in our backyard and the haskap syrup a Whistlerite made so expertly. I am still really close with most of my classmates and friends.

New York was hard. The school was exhausting and the people rough. But it turned out to be my favourite of all cities and I truly miss the loud, dirty, crazy, awesome things it encumpasses.

Oak Park so far is awesome. The people are extremely friendly and I love the weather.

My heart beats for the skiing, the snow and the lush forests in Whistler, the calm, relaxed sound of Californian beach waves and the cosmopolitan bustle of New York City. But it also beats for German Gemütlichkeit (coziness) and the mountains that were there for me since I opened my eyes for the first time.

Because my life is so different, I am also a bit different than the standard teenage German girl. I have learned to fight through being the new kid at school, saying goodbye and starting over. Each and every time it hurts, but each time it builds me as a person: it gives me a thick skin, it broadens my horizon.

I have realized that the question can have a million answers. Being from somewhere means you have connections, memories of laughing and crying, of friends and of family.

It is not the birth certificate, a white paper with black ink that defines you. A hometown does not automatically equal home. It is about all the different places that your roots have grown. My roots are made of memories. I am kind of an air rooter. For me, my home is the small house in the mountains of Allgäu with flowers and mountains. My only grounded root. But I am from and of multiple places and I am okay with it.

What about you?