My Existential Crisis of “Home”: Where am I from?

“Where are you from?”

This is a seemingly simple question to which I routinely respond with complicated answers. Most inquirers are just being polite or trying to ascertain some small amount of information about where I live. However, they usually end up with significantly greater detail than expected.

My answer  and corresponding internal dialogue usually goes something like this:

“Well, I guess I’m from Connecticut now” (that response inspires confidence; I guess? My driver’s license and the plates on my car sure seem to think I’m from Connecticut)

“I live there. In Storrs. Actually… at UConn.” (I don’t want this person to think that I just moved out to rural Eastern Connecticut in my mid-twenties to live a quiet country life or something)

I live at UConn, but I’m not a student. I’m a residence hall director. So I live on campus, but it’s not like, a dorm room. It’s a real apartment…in a residence hall.” (They need to know that I’m a real live grown-up. Maybe I should mention again that I’m not a student. I have a kitchen!)

“But I’m originally from Rhode Island! From outside of Providence.” (Now they know who I really am!)

“And I lived in Maine for six years while I was in school.” (Haha! Wildcard! Betcha didn’t see that coming.)

My long-winded explanations, of course, stem from my own confusion about “home” and where I am rooted at this juncture in my life. Numerous factors contribute, not the least of which is my somewhat unique position of living on a college campus because of my job. After two years in Connecticut, I feel that I owe my experience as a resident there some level of recognition, but that recognition is almost always qualified by explanations.

For me, “where are you from?” is a question that has very little to do with geography. It has to do with values, context, and history. The name or location of a place tells a story (accurate or otherwise) about the person who lives there. It would seem that I find my story complicated enough that it cannot be condensed into one single locale. It would also seem that I see my current, employment-related residence as not quite worthy of full “home” status.

I enjoy my job and where I currently live, and I’ve put in a lot of effort over the past two years to build a sense of connection and belonging there, but I think that I will always have some dissonance in explaining where I am from as long as I live on campus. As long as I live on campus, my home is defined by my job, and I am unwilling to reduce my definition as a person to my job. So for now, I’ll continue to confuse new acquaintances at social gatherings by embracing my multifaceted, trans-state definition of “home.” I don’t exist in just one place and neither does my story.

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2 thoughts on “My Existential Crisis of “Home”: Where am I from?

  1. Fellow Housing Professional August 31, 2014 / 2:17 pm

    “It would also seem that I see my current, employment-related residence as not quite worthy of full “home” status.

    I enjoy my job and where I currently live, and I’ve put in a lot of effort over the past two years to build a sense of connection and belonging there, but I think that I will always have some dissonance in explaining where I am from as long as I live on campus.”

    Ashley, I recently found your blog. Like you, I am a live in professional and have done so for eleven years. And, I have lived and worked at a number of colleges, and have moved much in life. So, I understand your dilemma. For me, my birthplace of Philadelphia, will forever be my home, my anchor. But, I also have the secondary homes I have created, wether on campus or off. And, as I have worked to make my halls a home for my residents, so, too, did I create one for myself. There were moments akin to the “You’re Gonna Miss This” song, but, overall, my little apartment in that hall was home.

    From your posts, I get the overriding sense, that the passion of your heart is off campus, somewhere, dropping anchor, digging down roots, and building a home within four walls, and whatever that means specifically and deeply to you. And, that is beautiful! In some ways, I think we all want that…

    I took a sabbatical in April from live in housing to address some personal health concerns. And, for me, especially now that my health ship has been righted, I am aching to get back on campus, back to work, back to living a life in harmony with how I am wired. For me, that means on campus, living where I also happen to work. I have lived the off campus life and have tried it and have found it wanting.

    But, it seems your heart is crying out for an off campus existence. As we tell students to follow their passion, follow their heart, I think your heart is speaking loud and clear to you. I wish you all the best and hope you find the home you are looking for, whatever that ends up meaning to you.

    • ashleynrobinson August 31, 2014 / 2:23 pm

      Thank you so much for reading and for sharing part of your story. As I explore and consider where I will go next in my career and life, insights such as yours are valuable and helpful.

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