TED Conversations

Kate Torgovnick May

writer, TED


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For people who have a hard time answering the question: "Where are you from?"

In Pico Iyer's talk from TEDGlobal 2013, he looks at the complex nature of the question: "Where are you from?" Because while his family originally comes from India, Iyer himself grew up in the United Kingdom. He spent the next 48 years living in the United States. Meanwhile, his heart resides in Japan. He calls these the "pieces of a stained glass self."

As he notes, in our increasingly global world, it's not uncommon to be a half-Korean, half-German woman in love with Paris or a half-Thai, half-French man in Canada.

And so we're curious: what are the pieces of YOUR stained glass whole? Share here and you may see your answers on the TED Blog soon.

I'll share first: I am a half-Italian, half-Polish Jewish-Christian with a Russian last name, who grew up in the Southern United States and now calls herself a New Yorker.

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  • Jul 31 2013: I'm from a small town in Alberta, Canada. However, I moved to the States when I was five and grew up all over the USA (including Utah, North Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico, Kentucky, Illinois, Florida, and currently Texas) and am now a US citizen married to a Colombian. I love my parents' hometown (I can't even really call it my own because I wasn't even born there) because people whom I've never met will stop on the streets and say, "Oh, you must be so and so's daughter." And due to economic stagnation in the farming industry, there's no new construction so it doesn't even look different every few years when I get back. And I'm glad about that. It gave me a sense of stability as a child. There are definitely some places I don't culturally identify with (I hate the South) and some I do (the Intermountain West is my home culture I would say), but even the physical landscape has a huge impact on me. I never truly feel at home without mountains nearby. And I do think "Where are you from?" IS a relevent question, because at least for me, it is so much of my identity and roots.
    However, the greatest sense of home I have is with my family. I've never lived where my parents currently live, but getting together with them and my husband and kids and siblings and their spouses and nieces and nephews and eating good food, now, that IS home.
    The other thing that helps me feel at home wherever I am is my church (LDS or Mormon). Anywhere I am, my church is the same and that does give me a wonderful sense of belonging whether I've just moved to a new city here in the US or if I'm down in Bogotá with my husband's family. Here in Houston, there are many women in my congregation that have lived all over the world (oil jobs) and they've shared the same sentiment with me. Also, it is extremely comforting to know that even if you're in China, Indonesia, Kazakistan, or Nigeria, etc you have an automatic support system and people you can connect with through our religious culture.

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