Thursday, September 17, 2015

A sense of place

I lived the first four years of my life in Austin. I've not lived there since, but do my best to remain familiar with the streets and restaurants so I can claim it as my home, so I can drive places without a map. If I can't be cool, let me at least be cool by association. 

After Austin, my family lived two years in Dallas (well, Irving), then to Houston for six years. So, 12 years a Texan in total. Across that time the most connecting place was Lake Jackson, where my grandparents lived. And after we left Texas it was to Lake Jackson we'd always return. I guess that's why I tend to think of myself as a Gulf Coaster, despite my habit of telling people I'm "from" Austin.

My uncle recently suggested I'm actually just a "wannabe East Texas redneck" and I suppose that's the most accurate description. The "wannabe" part, most certainly. 

Because there are, too, the years spent in Minnesota: six in Bloomington, two in Moorhead and three in St. Paul. Eleven years a Minnesotan. But those years are stretched out across a space of almost two decades, with time in England, Nevada and California in between. I guess one of those years in Moorhead could also be conceded to the state of North Dakota.

Breaking that down into percentages of my life:
- 31 percent Texas
- 28 percent Minnesota
- 23 percent Wales
- 18 percent other

States are big, though; borders sometimes blur. So, when talking about the concept of place it's probably better to think in terms of region -- spaces of mindset. In my life, then, I've lived in nine different regions. Breaking that down:
- 25 percent Twin Cities
- 23 percent Cardiff
- 15 percent Southeast Texas
- 10 percent Austin
- 27 percent other

If who we are and where we're "from" are defined by the geographical positions we've inhabited, then I suppose it's appropriate that so much of me is "other." I realised this morning, though, that with Jenn and I committed to being here until at least 2019, I will soon find myself having spent the small majority of my life as a Cardiffian.

Which is depressing, because it's the region to which I feel the least connected. Whilst also being the one to which I have made the most effort to connect.

Of course, the idea of geographical location imposing identity is incorrect. Both for the individual and for those who interact with the individual. No one will ever accept me as being "from" Cardiff, no matter how much time I serve. Texas might want you, but Cardiff will passively remind you every day of your lack of belonging. If even 1 percent of you is "other" it might as well be 100 percent.

I'm not sure where I'm going with all this except to say that I desperately want to go home. But I honestly don't know what the fuck I mean by that.

1 comment:

jg_38 said...

I lived in MN most my life. A few years here and there.
Now I've been in SD for almost 17 years.
Many people won't think that MN and SD are that different.
I beg to differ.

Though I always say, If I could have made a living, I wouldn't have left MT.