Where are you FROM?

As many of these posts have found life, so begins this one: On a friend’s Facebook page. The attached picture of a 10-year old boy’s essay about “where he is from” was posted by his mom, my friend.

I think it’s remarkable. Astonishing. And filled with a wisdom and a life lesson we would normally expect from adults. Or, at the very least, someone with more than 10 years on this third rock from the sun.

Did you read it? It won’t take long. I can wait.

When someone asks us where we’re from, we usually respond with a location. I grew up in LA, but I live in the Bay Area now. Not this kid. He saw right through a routine question and extracted something so much deeper and more meaningful. He’s not from a place. He’s from his experiences.

He’s from Little League Baseball and wrestling with his sister. He’s from this bobblehead collection and making ice cream cake with his Nana. He’s from the pain of his two deceased grandfathers. And he’s from so much more. He’s from his memories. Because, he says, These are the memories that make me who I am. This is my world. Not just a static location that describes nothing, but an experiential slideshow of people, places and events that evokes imagery we can all see. And emotions we can all understand.

The timing of this essay was particularly appropriate for me, as I read it while I was on my way to a friend’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah celebration. I met this friend nearly 30 years ago on a summer trip to Israel. And, if I think about all of my life experiences in the context of this essay, I’m from my summer in Israel. In fact, my friend, the mom of the otherworldly 10-year old, was also on that trip.

Certainly, like our young essay writer, I’m from much more, but that summer is at the top of the list.

  • I’m from wrestling with my dog(s) and long summer nights playing football in the street with my brother and neighborhood friends.
  • I’m from writing. I’m from summer camp with campfires and s’mores.
  • I’m from mistakes and learning to let go. I’m from playing soccer and the broken bones that resulted.
  • I’m from days and weeks and years spent at the beach and in the water.
  • I’m from being a husband and father and trying desperately to teach my son what I wish I had known.
  • I’m recently from the Colorado back country and experiencing spirituality in a way that made me feel like I could actually touch the Universe…and the struggle to stay in that space.
  • And I’m from a summer in Israel when I was 16.

Of course, there’s so much more to where I’m from, but these are the memories that come first. These are the memories and events and experiences that provide the foundation for what I’ve become and often guide me through where I’m going. Especially the friends from that summer in Israel.

I find this twist on the message of where I’m from to be incredibly powerful. Wonderful. And, frankly, I’m shocked that I hadn’t thought of it sooner. Or been introduced to it sooner. I needed to learn it from a 10-year old. Sure, I know that we’re all made up of the sum of our experiences – from our family of origins to our jobs to the breakfast we ate this morning, but those things never entered my mind when I previously thought about where I’m from.

I know the next time someone asks me where I’m from and I rattle off a variation of the above list that it might be strange. I might get one of those what are you on? kind of looks. But so what? I’m guessing the ensuing conversation will be undeniably more genuine. And it will certainly be more interesting.

So…Where are you from?

One thought on “Where are you FROM?

  1. Thought you might like to know that your friend’s son’s essay/ poem takes off from a poem of mine which took off from a poem by my friend, Jo Carson, back in 1993. It’s been a poem-starter (think sourdough starter) ever since, first from workshops and then via the internet.

    You can hear my poem, with suggestions for further writing, on my website,

    Happy writing!

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