How much has your hometown shaped your personality?
After nearly two years away, my husband and I, with our two little girls in tow, finally went home. Somehow, it took us that long to get home after we first moved. Over the years, since moving to North Carolina, we’ve seen our family and friends again and again with plenty of visits up to our (now, not so new) home here in Durham, and vacations where we meet somewhere in between. My husband and I are both from Miami, Florida. We both grew up in the buzzy city. In fact, we’re high school sweethearts, and I like to think that so much of our relationship, and who we are, has been defined by where we grew up.
I often laugh at how excited people get when they hear one of us is from Miami. “How glamorous!,” they’ll say. They want to know if we’ve run into Pitbull or Drake. Whether everyone is as tan as they’ve seen in the movies. Aside from the palm trees, most people in the suburbs, where I grew up, were nice, and very run of the mill, in the best of ways.
Still, going home reminded me of how much I missed home. Not that I wasn’t already completely sure how much I loved my hometown. Like any visit home, it’s the small things you crave; the best ever arroz con pollo and sushi, the smell of the ocean, the crowded sidewalks and endless conversation in multiple languages. Nostalgia at its finest. I felt my whole personality ease once we were home.
Our life now is always a bit unknown. My husband is a resident physician, and after this, we still have fellowship, jobs, and who knows what else. Matching for residency is unlike anything I’d ever experienced. If you know a medical student or doctor, you’ve probably heard of the exhausting process that is the medical match system. After 15+ interviews, medical students rank their choices of schools, and then on “match day” in ceremonious fashion, each student’s name is called, and the school that they’ve matched with through a complicated process of lists and numbers (and excel spreadsheets; because come on, it’s doctors we’re talking about!) is read from an envelope. On “match day” a few years back, I put on my bravest face, and smiled as my husband matched at Duke University. He was ecstatic, while I mourned the loss of the huge city I had always known.
Fast-forward more than three years, and we’ve settled in quite well here in North Carolina. Sure, I sometimes feel like a fish out of water in the South. I wear too much black, walk rather than hike, and refuse to buy a Subaru.
Ever try to order an iced coffee in the South? And yes, I’m well aware that South Florida is technically in the South. But it’s not. Okay? Anyway, I dare you to order an iced coffee in the Carolinas. The strange looks, the raised eyebrows, and the eventual shrug of the shoulders that comes along with a short cup of ice and mug of hot coffee, so that I can enjoy a lukewarm watered down coffee. Yum. I gave up. My iced coffee habit is reserved solely for Starbucks lines and visits to either Miami or New York. Still, living here in North Carolina nowadays, I often find myself saying “y’all,” and using words like “community,” IPA is life, I adore farmers markets, and I believe with unshaking certainty that a biscuit is one of the greatest carbs ever to grace our palettes.
Odds are, we’ll move again at some point. I’ll start the process of re-setting roots and adopting city-isms, and find myself speaking the lingo and eating the food.
Does where you’re from define who you are?
Yet going home reminded me of whom I was, and how it had shaped me; not that I’d ever really forgotten. In fact, moving away affirmed for me how very “Miami” I was.
Of course, the broad-sweeping generalizations are ill-fitting. I’m pale and read books; not exactly what you think of when you think “Miami.” Not everyone from New Jersey is a bad driver, not every New Yorker is impatient, and I’d venture to guess most people from California don’t actually surf. My ability to adapt with change, a patience for crowds and traffic, zeal for life and music and dancing, the willingness to try new things; all of that is probably a mix of genetics and Miami.
You see: I’m fairly certain that our hometown is who we are. It defines us. Stepping away from a hometown just strengthens the bond. You fall out of the rhythm of it all, but the song still plays on in the background, and certain notes take you right back home.
Not everyone leaves their hometown, but those that do probably find themselves closer to understanding who they are as defined by their hometown, because they’ve had the chance to be themselves outside of it. It’s certainly easier to notice the differences when you move away from it. It gives you a basis of comparison. Actress Helen Mirren famously said, “Where you grew up becomes a big part of who you are for the rest of your life. You can’t run away from that. Well, sometimes the running away from it is what makes you who you are.”
It’s a combination of both, I’m sure. I’ll have more understanding if we move again. I’ll smile more and wave hello and goodbye more, because we lived and learned in North Carolina. Miami will always be home though, and I’ll forever weigh everything to that city of mine, no matter how long we’re gone.
My heart, as they say, belongs to Miami. (And the boy I fell in love with there.)
Where are you from? Do you feel like your hometown has shaped you?
Photo by Annie Timmons Photography for Glitter, Inc.