Readers’ Forum: Where I am from is not who I am

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Where you are from does not determine who you are meant to be, but your kindness, values and belief systems do. (Pixabay)

I have trailblazed a desert on the backs of a war horse, I have been rocked to sleep in my mosquito-protected hammock in the middle of the Amazon rainforest and I have seen the police chase panhandling little boys out of the Taj Mahal.

I have gone scuba diving, ridden elephants and camels, walked to school in weather below 40 degrees, tried hundreds of foods and learned many languages. 

Likewise, I was born in Orem, Utah on a cold November day almost 23 years ago. 

Where I was born is a mark of where I am from, but it is not who I am.

As a teenager suffering from anxiety, one of the phrases I often heard from my mother was, “Our circumstances do not define us,” meaning that the situation you were born into does not define you. On the contrary, your kindness, your values, your beliefs and the things you have done say more about you than the small town you grew up in or the university you attended.

Those things may have helped shape you but they are not the primary reason for why you are who you are. You are a compilation of your birthplace, your family and your environment.

I never understood why the question “where are you from?” was part of every icebreaker. Honestly, I don’t know where I’m from but I know for a fact what I have done. 

When you think of Oprah Winfrey, Giannis Antetokounmpo or J.K. Rowling, you don’t think of where they grew up. Instead, you think of their accomplishments within their personal life and professional career.

Understandably, hometowns and birthplaces are special as they are filled with memories and the people we love most. Yet, these places do not compound who we are.

I suggest we stop defining ourselves by our hometown and begin defining ourselves by what we do, what we are good at, what we care about.

Not having just one home has helped me be more compassionate and loving. Even though what we are is the the result of our circumstances, what we will be known for at the end of our life is how we get out of or build on those circumstances. 

–Macy Holmgren

Falls Church, Virginia

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