Where we are shapes who we are

Place is peculiar. Where we are shapes who we are. Changes in location brew in me a mild feeling of panic; when the physical environment shifts dramatically, I’m forced to confront the more existential shifts in my life. After visiting Turkey in January, I find I’m more cognizant of place’s role in my evolving identity.

I was born in Minnesota and grew up in Iowa. Occasionally I feel I have to declare one and renounce the other.

Yet that’s the beautiful thing about place. Each physical space in which I exist weaves its way through my life in unexpected, productively jarring ways.

Where we are shapes who we areMy family and I returned today from a four-day vacation in New York City, a world far different from Iowa — land of the nod and two-finger wave when you drive by, well, everyone. It’s when we realize where were not meant to be that we become aware of where we are meant to be.

As I craned my neck to catch the tops of buildings towering above, I realized the density of NYC left me feeling emptied, exhausted. I craved space to breathe, a moment free of blaring taxi horns and the pretense of another curt “Excuse me.”

Place has a way of naturally and organically revealing what matters to me. I write to capture my identity as it exists suspended in specific places and times and more importantly, to work through the turbulence of 20-something life.

I travel not to find the iconic landmark or like-worthy “Look where I am!” selfie but to find the vulnerability place inevitably provides. When I travel, I let place make me feel uncomfortable, uncertain, unmoored, and somewhere amid all that un-everything, I gain a stronger sense of where — and who — I am.

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