300 words about Fluid ‘Identities’

By Chris Caines

Where am I or where am I not? I’m not sure which list would be shorter.

Geographically, I live in Miami. But pieces of myself still reside in Los Angeles, where I lived for the first 18 years of my life. Others are in a small town in Connecticut where I spent the last four and discovered more and grew faster than I ever thought was possible.

Culturally, I’m a Cuban-American on level 9 of the language-learning app, DuoLingo, trying to learn the tongue of my grandmother who raised me. The sun brings out my freckles, so being in Florida makes me look like my dark-skinned father and fair-complexioned, freckled mother at the same time.

Professionally, I’m a 22-year-old black kid working in philanthropy. When 2016 ends, I will have had a hand in awarding more than $6 million worth of grants to over 50 organizations. On the weekends, I still sometimes sneak alcohol into bars and I never get guacamole on my Chipotle burritos. I adjust and readjust my loan payments on business-class flights to Europe, on my organization’s tab, and I absolutely take all the hotel shampoo when I finish my stay.

For me, location is not a discrete reality and never has been. The only thing fixed about my locations is that they are not. I accept this fact and adjust my life accordingly.

At times, it is bittersweet to be central to few locations and tangential to most. More than anything, though, it is just different. I define my “where” against the “wheres” of others. The combination of identities I hold are crowded enough in themselves, but become more lonely when melded together.

I don’t know where I’ll be in the future. For now though, I am some thing to everyone, and everywhere at some time.

Editor’s note: This story is part of our September 2016 series ‘Hundreds of Words about Location: Where are you, and how does it affect how you see the world?’


Chris is a Program Associate at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami. His passions include working to expand opportunities for underserved communities, coercing people into using public transportation, and Tinder. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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