Where are you from? My life growing up in a military family

A brief overview

When I was younger, my family moved a lot. I don’t remember moving the first few times. I just remember a few bits and pieces of the various houses we lived in, what my bedroom looked like, and how it changed a little each time. The first move I actually remember packing things into boxes was one of our moves when we were in Germany. I remember that we lived near a playground, and that I had to give away my My Little Pony collection and a whole bunch of books. I was 9, almost 10 at that point, and this was going to be the 6th time I’d moved (and the time we were moving back to the United States). 

We’d lived in Germany for 5 years, from 2005-2010, and within that time I’d gone to 3 different schools and lived in 3 different towns. I remember little bits and pieces of things every now and again; going on hikes with my parents, traveling around Europe, learning piano, and spending time reading books in my room. I made some friends too, and while it was hard to stay in touch, I did my best. I still talk with two of them to this day.

We finally moved back to the US, and I had my 10th birthday at our new house in Virginia, with no friends to celebrate. I remember feeling pretty sad about that fact, but soon enough we got settled into the new house. We unpacked everything, I started at a new school for 5th grade, I started playing violin, and within 6 months we packed everything back up again and moved. Again. 

This time, onto Sackets Harbor, NY. A small village close to Canada, and there we remained from 6th grade till high school graduation. It was the first time we really settled in anywhere, and I enjoyed it. I made friends (not all too sure what they’re up to nowadays), I got bullied (I didn’t realize it though), picked up piano again (I’ve lost it now), and I graduated at the top of my class (a class of 38 people). 

Right after graduating from high school, we moved. Again. This time to Syracuse, NY, a place closer to where I would be going to college and where my dad, now retired from the army, got a job. I only lived in that house properly for a few months before starting college at the University of Rochester, then only really spent summers and all of the pandemic there. After graduation, I moved to Rochester, where I am as of writing this. 

Growing up

I had a great childhood. I had (and still have) two loving parents that supported me through everything. I had the opportunity to travel a lot and gain a unique perspective on the world around me. I visited family frequently no matter where we lived. While we were in Germany, I practically lived in England during the summers at my Gran and Grandpa’s house (my Mum’s family). While we were in the US, we frequently visited my Great Grandma in Connecticut and my Grandma and my Uncles in California (my Dad’s family). 

Of all the family visits, I loved England the most, so much so that I wanted to (and still want to) move there someday.  I have had so much fun over the years visiting the UK more times than I can count. I considered England a second home for a long time and still kind of do.

Germany also left a big impression on me as a child, as we lived there as I was growing up and learning how to interact with the world. Living there was a great experience, and even though we lived on military bases most of the time, we frequently explored the surrounding country. (Unfortunately, I never learned German though). 

Being in a military family, I grew up with frequent travel and a love for adventure. We traveled often between moves, and this helped shape the person I am today. The moving never really bothered me, and looking back, I think it helped me with my social skills and allowed me to adapt to new situations. I had a good time moving around from place to place, and I wouldn’t change a thing (other than making my Dad deploy less, It was sad when he had to deploy).

The question(s)

I became familiar with the question, as everyone has. It’s a pretty common icebreaker question that shows up in a variety of ways and that I’ve been asked a million times over. In summer camps, when we moved to Sackets, when I first went off to Rochester for college, in my graduate program introductions, and even the other day. 

Where are you from? Where did you grow up? What’s your hometown?

They’re not daunting questions, but I noticed that my answer changed depending on the situation I was in and as I grew up. While living in Sackets, my answer varied from “I recently moved from Germany” to the truthful answer “Tennessee.” This brought up more questions. “Oh, where in Tennessee?” Which led to a more confusing answer, “Well, I was born in Fort Campbell Kentucky, but my parents lived in Tennessee at the time.” (The military base was in both states!) Which led to more questions, “Oh, your dad’s in the military? What’s his rank? What does he do? Where else have you gone?” All of that was too difficult, so I just stopped answering the follow-up questions after a while, and people ended up figuring stuff out anyway because it was a small school. At summer camps away from home, I was able to deflect the question a little easier and just say I was from Sackets, as that’s where I’d traveled from for camp. 

When we eventually left Sackets, I’ll admit, I was a little sad. It had been the longest time I’d lived anywhere, and I still feel like I want to go back and visit from time to time. When I started at the UofR and was faced with this question nearly every day in freshman year, I started to wonder more about my answer. I don’t think I ever answered Sackets Harbor, but should I have? I felt the most connected to that place of all the places I’d lived, but I was living in Syracuse. I defaulted and said Syracuse for the majority of my undergraduate career.

I can’t quite remember exactly when I stopped saying Syracuse, but I did at some point. It didn’t feel like the right answer. It was where my parents lived, it was the address on file with the university, and it’s where most of my stuff was, but it wasn’t where I was from. It wasn’t where I grew up, and it most certainly wasn’t my hometown. But that brought on the bigger question: Where was I from?

I’d moved from place to place and visited a bunch of countries, but where was I from? Not Tennessee. I wasn’t there for more than a year. I have no memories of that state. Not Germany. I loved it the most, but I don’t feel a connection there anymore. Not Sackets Harbor. I may have lived there the longest, but that place doesn’t fit, doesn’t feel right. Not Syracuse, not Rochester, not… anywhere. 

What now?

I don’t have an answer. I can’t put my finger on a map and say “I’m from here!” I can name the place I was born, I can name all the places I’ve lived, and I can name where I currently reside, but I don’t feel like I’m from any of those places. Nowhere feels like home, my hometown, where I’m from. I have my family in Syracuse, in Connecticut, in England, in California, and in other places too. I have my apartment, the bed I sleep in, and my fiancé. I have little bits of home all over the place, and that’s good enough for me. I belong in a lot of places, and I feel welcome in many homes. Everyone has a different answer for where they’re from, and mine will always be “well, I don’t really know.” 


To all the people who have an answer to that question, I’m a little jealous, honestly. I wonder if that would have helped me at all in the formation of my identity. And thank you, reader, for taking some time to read a little reflection into who I am! I hope to explore a little more about myself in these blog posts every now and again. I jotted this idea down a few weeks ago, then soon after I was confronted with this question twice in the period of a few days, so the timing felt right. As usual, here’s a photo of my puppy Lucy as thanks for getting to the end of my post.

One response to “Where are you from? My life growing up in a military family”

  1. Fantastic Post! Do you miss moving around?


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