Number five in our guest post series is by Blake Palmer. Guys, he tells such great stories, and you have got to check out the stuff he writes on his blog, Typus Orbis Terrarum. When you go, you'll notice pretty quickly that his stories come from Korea. That's where we met! Blake and I work together in Seoul and have gotten to share many good conversations. He always has well thought out ideas to say, and I'm glad he's written for us today!
by Blake Palmer
Being a person who tends to move around a great deal, it has become a common occurance for people to ask me where I'm from. Despite being presented with a multitude of opportunities I've yet to conjure what feels like a reasonable response to this seemingly simple question.
I always seem to sputter about for an uncomfortable period of time, naming off a few areas that seem like plausible answers before eventually resigning myself to saying something akin to, "The South, mostly."
My inability to gracefully handle one of the most basic pillars of introductory small talk has led me to spend a great deal of time attempting to define for myself exactly what home is.
My birthplace might seem like an easy answer to default to. I was born in Memphis, and would eventually spend two beautiful years there. There are deeply good people who inhabit that strange and gritty city that I count amongst the very best that I know. It's the beginning of what I have loosely categorized as my adult life, and the backdrop for most of my more significant professional achievements. However, those years were well after college, and hardly seem to qualify me for the exalted status of native son.
Then there are those elementary and middle school years in which I first began to awkwardly grasp at achieving some understanding of who I was, and who I wanted to be as a person. Those years belong entirely to a small town in western Kentucky called Mayfield. Being a rather socially inept little person who had been shoehorned into a part of the world where families have lived for generations, and social structures are firmly cemented by the end of kindergarten, I didn't have much in the way of friends. But I can thank a few good teachers and a great deal of spare time for this being the place in which I first developed a deeply instilled love for words and stories, without which I would be an entirely different person than I am today.
Niceville, Florida has a strong case for hometown status. It's where I finally began to see the high tide of painful teen angst slowly recede, where I spent the entirety of my high school years, and where I would return to during breaks from college. It's where I first liked a girl who liked me back, where I weathered my parents' divorce, and where I first made the types of friends that you keep for the rest of your life. There are a harrowing host of memories dwelling in that small, beachside town and it's always a bittersweet ordeal to see it again, but I will always want to see it again.
My last two years before leaving the US were spent in Austin, Texas, which, to date, possesses the highest concentration of people that I would trade all of my money to see and bear-hug into oblivion. It's a weird, transient town where, looking back, it seems like I accomplished nothing and everything all at the same time. In a very short time, it changed me at a deep and core level which I truly believe was for the better, and the stories I left with might not even sound believable to anyone who doesn't know first hand that anything is possible in Austin. If a place can become home in only two years, this would be the city that could do it.
Then there are those other pockets of the world that lay claim to little pieces of my life. Places where I've never applied for a library card or had my mail forwarded to, but still carry a significant weight on my person because there are people there that, by choice or by fate, I call family:
I will probably never overcome my fear of winter for long enough to set roots in Idaho, but nothing carries the calm weight of home like standing over the stove with a hot cup of coffee in my mother's kitchen. Northeast Arkanasas is amongst the last places I would choose to move to, but it holds almost the entirety of my extended relatives, some of my childhood's most fond memories, and, if you catch me in an unguarded moment, traces of the deeply southern accent I tried to kill for a good portion of my youth. And I may be a far, far cry from holding any sort of claim on Glasgow, but there are good hearts and kind faces there that I will be deeply proud to call family for the rest of my life.
Which leads this wandering tale to where I am now. Tucked away in my own beautiful little corner of one of the biggest, busiest cities our world has to offer. I think I won't be able to know the impact that Seoul has had on my life until I've left it behind, but I can tell you that, right now, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Every week is packed with as many new and bizarre experiences as some people achieve in a year. To be certain, I am a stranger in a strange land, but it has already taken on so many of those core elements that turn a destination into what can only be called a home.
People will continue to ask me where I am from, and I will continue to fumble awkwardly for the words with which to tell them. But a close examination of my life has left room for only one true answer. Home is the people we carry with us, however far we may be.
Again. Seriously. Check out Blake's blog. Typus Orbis Terrarum. You won't regret it.
My favorites are "The RKD Experience and the Awkward Benevolence of Strangers" and "The Influence of Alcohol on American Exceptionalism." And, while he didn't write the main selection, you must also visit "The Great and Noble Truths of Humma the Sven." Must.