This is a question I've been thinking about a lot lately... how much of your identity is based on where you live? If you moved somewhere else, would you still be you, or would there be a shift in how you think about yourself?
I've lived in Boston, LA, and Miami. I've spent enough time in NYC to know that I love it. Boston is where I was born. It's forever a part of me even though the Baw-stun accent is mostly gone. I have family there, I love riding the T, sitting in bars or just walking around the city. I never appreciated it when I was growing up, as I really had no idea what was so special about it without having other points of reference. Now that I no longer live there I long for a decent pizza, great cannoli, that Yankee banter that makes outsiders think that Bostonians are all bitter know-it-alls, the crazy curved streets downtown that force pedestrians to run for their lives lest they be hit by invisible cars speeding towards them, blueberry ale in Kenmore Square, and fried whole clams.
In 1992 (when I was 23), I moved to LA to pursue a career in the music industry. It was ridiculously easy for me to break into the industry, as basically everyone in the entire city works in the "industry" even if they're an accountant or they sell insurance. I started out delivering food to recording studios and within 6 months I was working as an assistant engineer in one. I worked my way up pretty quickly and within 2 years had a great paying job in TV and film. In addition to a great career, I loved the palm trees, which looked so alien to me, the hot long haired metal heads that mobbed the Sunset Strip, the fact that you had ocean, mountains, desert, and city all in a 20 mile radius, amazing mexican food, rollerblading on the bike path from Santa Monica all the way down to Redondo Beach and back (stopping at El Torito to get drunk on the way), and the weather. I also loved the Spanish architecture (also alien to me), driving through Century City when it's all lit up at night and looking at the staggering array of interesting artsy people every time I flew into LAX. I thought I would never move. LA was MY city, the place I chose to live, the place I loved flying into and calling home. I'm still a little unsure why I moved away. I remember writing a friend and saying that I was making too much money and starting to feel superficial. How fucked up is that??!!!
So in 2000, my then boyfriend of 6 years was homesick for Miami and wanted to settle down and buy a house. We looked at places in LA but decent houses on the west side were at least $500k and that amount of money was staggering to us, even though we both had great incomes. For the hell of it, we started looking at houses in Miami and found a place we both loved. It had coconut and banana trees in the backyard. I think I became drunk with the idea of home ownership and forgot that not every place is like LA. It didn't hit me that we were moving until I was on the 10 heading east in a moving truck with 2 cats, 2 cars, a boat, and everything I owned. Oh yes, and the boyfriend too.
It really hit me 3 weeks later when I turned in my California driver's license for a Florida one and saw a hologram of the state seal imprinted on my face. Panic set in. I had never before realized how much of my adult identity was as a California girl until it was gone. I loved my house, but I hated everything else. I eventually broke up with the boyfriend, sold the house for a huge profit, and bought my own condo. I've now lived here for 8 years and I don't really have a list of things I love about Miami. The weather's nice, my cats have a good home, there are some great restaurants, and the ocean is really beautiful. Meh.
It's kind of funny, because people here always ask me where I'm from. It's pretty obvious that I don't look like I belong here. I don't speak spanish, I have blue eyes, and I don't even have a tan. I couldn't look LESS like a native. When I travel to New York City, (which is 7-8 times a year) everyone assumes I live there and I'm always getting asked for directions. I have the pale city complexion, I'm usually alone, and I can tell you where to find the best cannoli (Veniero's), pizza (Lombardi's), chicken wings (Dino BBQ), cheesecake (Junior's in Brooklyn), vegetarian food (Dirt Candy), and Indian food (Banjara). I can even engage in pretty good arguments about the best transportation routes. My boyfriend (who lives in NYC) tells me I shouldn't move there because all the things I love about the city would be ruined once I had to endure a daily commute, 4-5 months of depressing winter, homeless people, and drug addicts. Point taken.
The one thing I'll say about Miami is that I've grown as a person a lot since I moved here. I became an adult. I learned how to deal with people, learned a lot about myself, learned that no matter what language people speak they're still people... for better or for worse. I've learned about different cultures, traveled a lot, and learned to appreciate my family as being the people who will always be there, no matter what.
But even after 8 years, I still don't identify myself as a Floridian or as a Miamian. This is not my home, it's just where I live. For now. I don't hate it, I'm not miserable, I'm not up for moving again any time soon, and I've made a decent life for myself. Yet something's missing. I miss having an identity attached to where I live. I miss flying into my home airport, seeing the blue runway lights, and thinking "This is HOME!".
Is this just what happens when we get older? Or do you think there's a place for each of us that defines us and makes us who we are?