Saturday, September 1, 2012

Where are you from?

This is a question I’ve never been able to answer. I remember hanging out with friends in my school’s library when I was a teenager and feeling like I had to pick somewhere. In some visceral manner, being from somewhere is important.

At the time I was living in Monrovia, Liberia. My family was moving to Olympia, Washington in a few months. This place was where I would complete high school. I had lived there before when I attended kindergarten and first grade. I was returning somewhere, something I’d never done before. I was always going: Alaska, Michigan, Virginia, Saudi Arabia, Tennessee, and Liberia. Returning was something new. I thought this must be what it feels like to go home.

As an adult I’ve put a few more miles underneath my feet. Like my parents did with me, I too have packed up my belongings and guided my family to various locales. California, Egypt, the Philippines, Washington, Idaho, Indonesia, and now Canada. And my answer to where I’m from has changed.

Southern California is where I’ve actually lived the longest. Seven whole years in small little Yucaipa, nestled in the foothills of the dessert. I had a commercial break during that time, - moving to Indonesia so my husband could work for an NGO (Catholic Relief Services) -  but that year spent in Indonesia was always something I knew would be temporary; our entire household was packed in a local storage facility. We had to come home simply to get our stuff.

You plant roots through your children. And with five children who have attended seven different schools in Yucaipa and are very active in sports, we’ve planted some very solid roots.

Besides my college friends (Hi Super Pod!), the friends I have here in Yucaipa I have known for a longest. The wonderful thing about traveling means that you have friends spread throughout the world. But these friends in Yucaipa I have worked with, dined with, commiserated over babies with, and feel like they are the ones I go to when I need help.

And these friends I met through my workplace, in some form or fashion. I think it’s kind of Freudian that I have a yearning to call a location my home, and I work at a company that specializes in geography.

My work is a giant tether to this sunny place. I’ve been at this company for 20 years. I love what I do and the incredible independence I have. I don’t take it for granted. It took me about five resumes before someone picked up a phone and called me. Then, a whole lot of persuading until I was actually hired.

The company is a proving ground to find your inner guts. You need to find the perfect balance of collaboration and Survivor Island techniques to stay afloat and relevant. I think all high tech companies have a little bit of that in them – they are full of bright people trying to think of the next big thing. It’s an environment I relish. My favorite joke is that every time I step on campus, the collective I.Q. level goes down.

And while this company has employees all over the world, and has allowed me to work in some pretty interesting places, it is headquartered here in Southern California. You basically roll down the hill from Yucaipa and you’re there.

So, this is home. This is where I’m from.

I don’t know why it matters so much to me right now. The need to be able to answer the question “Where are you from?” It could be the fact that at work we are working on a big campaign and this was one of the questions we asked the people being interviewed. We had a long discussion on which answer was most appropriate to ask – where are from, where do you live, or where do you work? We decided that ‘where are you from?’ was the question with the most meaning. And I’d have to agree.

So, it is with some serious sadness that I dust off this blog and say good bye – for a while – to the place that I’m from. And I want to thank the people who helped us out in the transition. The hubster was gone for the most part from April until we met again in Canada at the end of July. Let me tell you, there is no natural act that would have gotten my five kids and me to Canada without some serious intervention. It takes a big village, people.

So, enormous thank you to:

My amazing friends.

Especially Wendy for driving my boys to and from summer camp early – with 2 year old twins in tow. And housing us for a week.

Gab for hosting my girls so they wouldn’t mistakenly get packed in a big box.

Beth for driving an hour round trip from work just to deliver a six pack of beer to keep me sane.

Amazing teachers and coaches.

To Coach Price at Yucaipa High School for mentoring my 15 year old and taking the time to let us and him know what a great kid he is, and for creating one of the BEST football progams in Southern California. Not that I'm biased.

All the teachers at Ridgeview who expressed their sadness at losing our family

To Mrs. Geusen for the Barnes and Noble gift card – what teacher gives a parent a thank you present?

Awesome colleagues at work.

Especially my boss Robin and my team lead Emily for not judging me as I cried like a baby when I explained I was moving and felt terrified I might lose something that had defined me for two decades.

And of course, the owners of my company,Jack and Laura for trusting me once again, as I trek to a new location.

And a HUGE thank you to family who hosted hormonal me, five kids and two large dogs for a month. Whether you liked it (or knew it) or not!

So,.. here is to the next journey – Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I guess I still have children and will travel.

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