Don’t ask me where I’m from

In my mere 23 years of existence I have lived in 20 houses, 10 cities and 4 countries. As a result, I have never felt that I belonged anywhere. I have a weird accent, I don’t look like anyone I know, I am unaware of the concept of a “childhood friend”, and I’ve never stayed in a house long enough to get to know my neighbours. I know I’m not alone and there are several others who’ve had a similar experience. For those feeling lost, undergoing an identity crisis, or are just frustrated when asked “where are you from?”, I have this to say:

“All experience is local, All identity is experience. I’m not a national. I’m a local. I’m multi-local.”

Taiye Selasi is an author and a multi-local. In her Ted Talk, she explores the relationship between the concept of identity and nationality. The answer to “Where do you come from?” is not a reflection of who you are as a person. In fact, it is where you are a local is what impacts on you as a being. So where are you a local? Explore the three “R’s”: rituals, relationships, restrictions.

First, she urges you to think of your daily rituals. Mine include pouring myself a giant cup of coffee an hour after I wake up, taking off my shoes in the house, and doing yoga before I go to bed. Second, she asks you to think of the people who shape your days. Due to the ease of communication provided by social media, I keep in touch with my friends all over the world on a daily basis – I interact with my friend living in Los Angeles, London, Melbourne, Bangalore and Singapore on a daily basis. Third consider your restrictions. By restrictions, I mean, where are you able to live? What passport do you hold?

Selasi concludes her thought-provoking talk with this gem:

The myth of national identity and the vocabulary of coming from confuses us into placing ourselves into mutually exclusive categories. In fact, all of us are multi – multi-local, multi-layered.

Watch the entire talk here: