Where Are You From?
This question, and several others in the same category of introductory queries asked by people who are politely going through the socially approved motions of getting to know you, always leaves me at a loss for an answer.
That’s a lie and a truth rolled into one sentence.
I’m not really at a loss for an answer. I have quite a few I’d like to give, what I am missing is the one which the person asking the question is likely to accept due to considering it acceptable. That’s true and untrue too. I know what sort of answer would satisfy them, but it dissatisfies me.
I have been struggling to untangle this knot of a problem since I first came across this type of questioning. My mind keeps offering me alternatives, some of which are awful and some brilliant. The brilliant ones are those others would see as awful and the awful ones are just awful.
I’m from planet Earth – was one of the ones I thought to be a masterful stroke of genius until I realised the other person would not appreciate it. They would think that I was being a smartass, difficult and rude.
However it is the most precise and brief answer I could give. Trying to be more specific ends up in quagmire of answers which you should not give because then you have to explain them… and what’s the point in exerting that kind of effort for this sort of a question which is not seeking a specific and personalised answer. It just wants a proper answer – a location, preferably one known to the questioner, especially one they can relate to and about which they can talk at length and tell you all about themselves and how they’ve been there and what they did there. You’d think planet Earth would be perfect for that. People are easily confused and offended.
What does it matter where I am from, all that matters is that I am here now – was one of the awful ones or was it brilliant. Answering these sort of questions bores me. I know where I’m from, I don’t need to talk about it. Where I am now interests me. This moment is where I am, and that’s where I’m from in many ways.
Talking about myself is tedious especially when it is the same old stuff repeated. Then repeated again. And again. I know this stuff, I want to know what I don’t know. But of course the other person does not know this stuff. I get it. Yet… do they? When they ask a question why do they not listen to the answer? Sometimes I have to answer the same question to the same person who is asking the same question because they were not listening… to the question or the answer when it was first asked. I remember conversations. I listened when the question was asked, I listened when I answered, can we please move on now or are we one a merry go round? Listening to myself say the same thing over and over is the sort of thing which inspires my dark side to emerge and lay waste to myself.
(Writing about myself in posts and repeating myself is different. I am talking to myself, repetition serves a very specific purpose… to move on from an obsession and to solve a conundrum which is bothering me).
You are only asking me where I am from because your mind wants to pop me into a pigeonhole – this was also awful, but true. This is also what I am usually thinking when this question is asked. A polite version of it. My mind is very vulgar and prone to being cranky. I can actually see the person filing me with each answer I give. Making judgments and deciding how their judgments of me affect them. Can they use me to hurt themselves? Am I suitable material for self aggrandisement? Do I give good ego boost? Will I provide need fulfilment?
When you meet a stranger you need to locate them in your mental map of people, and the perfunctory questions which you ask of them are designed to give you judging criteria to know whether this person is of interest to you, disinteresting, or to be avoided at all costs. Friend or foe. Useful or useless.
When we meet someone for the first time we do not see them, our eyes and mind are too busy scanning them for reference points. What we seek depends upon what we need. And most people seek someone who will perform a task for them. If you are trying to decide if someone is friend material, then you are looking for clues that they will be what you consider to be a friend.
People rarely ask those questions of themselves. Would I be a good friend to this person? Am I a friend or foe for them? Am I useful or useless to them?
However people do ask if they are interesting to the other person, if the person thinks they are likeable or not, but they don’t ask it with genuine interest in the other person’s interests, they ask it because… well relationships are about what you can get rather than give. Those who think they have a lot to give to others, have decided what it is that they want to give, and it usually is a form of getting disguised as giving.
Am I cynical? Now that is the sort of question to ask me when you first meet me. Yes, I am. Why? I’ve met too many people who want me to see them as they want to be seen, who often accuse me of not seeing them, go away convinced that I haven’t seen or understood them at all. But I have. I saw what they did not want me to see. I saw that they did not see me. When they looked at me they saw who they needed me to be for them, not who I actually am.
I have also seen that who I actually am is anathema to them. The sort of person they could never like. When I try to inform them of this. They censor me. And censorship is a huge part of the contract which these people sign on my behalf and then expect me to uphold. I am not allowed to be myself with them, they on the other hand get to be whoever they have decided they are going to be with me.
Now if they had bothered to get to know me, they would have noticed that I’m not the sort of person who is going to support their I Am identity statements if upon questioning their version of themselves I find they are not being who they say they are being. I AM… a questioner. If someone says something to me about themselves, I will question it and verify it for myself. Words need to be confirmed with action. If I find an inconsistency, I may feel compelled to point it out. Scorpio season is aggravating this trait.
I am aware that how I see them could be wrong. It’s often right. For me. Perception… well everything is about perception. The people I know, I only know the version of them which exists in my mind. I am not the only one who does this. We all do. We rarely see people as they see themselves.
I Am… interested in other people. The sort of questions which I will ask a stranger when I meet them are not the sort of questions they will think of asking me. I do want to know who they are, but not who they are on the outside, who they are on the inside. The inside person is the one who runs the outside person.
I am not going to ask you where you are from, where you went to school, what your higher education is, what job you do, where you live, what your faith is, what your political views are, etc. You’re used to being asked those questions and you’ve practiced answering them just as I have. You know what answers to give. So do I.
All the answers to those questions tell you about a person is how observant they are of the responses they get to those answers and what responses they seek to garner. Which is informative, but not as interesting as it is designed to be.
A person’s I Am statements are more revealing. Yet those too have been practiced and are designed for the audience who hears them. Creating an identity is easy, maintaning it is harder. I Am statements are often made to create a bond or to allow entry into a social club. I Am weird… oh, me too! I Am a football fan… Me too, what club do you support? The answer to that may create an allegiance or a separation, yet there is a bond of knowing why the allegiance or separation exists.
When people ask me – Where are you from? I usually just tell them where I live. It’s the simplest answer. It is precise. I am from here. When I travel, this is from where I am. Telling them my place of birth is an option, but one I prefer not to use. It is just where I was born, where my vehicle of gestation was when it ejected me, I did not spend much time there. My background? Tells you nothing, but is full of judgmental mental traps for the receiver of the answer.
And I can’t say my background is Malignant Narcissists, because unless I know that the other person knows what a Malignant Narcissist is, which is slightly different from a regular Narcissist, though not by much, and being the child of Narcissists is very different from having been in a relationship with a Narcissists, though not by much… this will backfire on me. And yet more than any other answer to the question of where I am from, this one would be the most precise, specific and explanatory. It explains why I wrote this post and why I am the way I am, why I listen and think for myself and see beyond the surface of questions and answers. And so much more.
So, when asked Where are you from? What’s your answer?