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“If you don’t know where you came from, you don’t know where you’re going.” That’s the saying, isn’t it? What’s happening now, isn’t important. What’s more interesting is how it started. So, rewind, we shall.  There are a few places in the world much too small to have a dot on the map. I grew up on a non existing dot, in the middle of the ocean, with famous neighbors: Tahiti, Fiji, and Hawai’i. American Samoa shaped my life from year one. My day included barefoot walks, in a brightly colored ‘ie lavalava to a convenience store for canned pisupo, uncooked ramen and simoi. The bells of the Sa, a village prayer curfew, would vibrate through the coconut trees. I grew up with the smell of salty sea air, breadfruit and barbecued turkey tail (IYKYK).
And yet . . . something was out-of-place. My heart was Polynesian, but the blood pumping through was not.   When I was 13, I had the opportunity to enroll in a prestigious high school in the Philippines. I had one month to move (mind you, I’ve been to the Philippines before, but a two week vacation in Boracay; this was not). What was practiced with my Filipino parents will personify soon - a changed everyday. I packed up all that I knew and traveled . . . back home? But it wasn’t home, was it? It was another island, sharing the same mother, the Pacific Ocean. A world of difference took on a whole new meaning.   I looked like them, but didn’t speak like them. I had clothes like them, but didn’t dress like them. I had values like them but didn’t apply it like them. Who I was, was suddenly questioned. Who I was, was once again . . . out-of-place.
There I was, a woman of the world, floating - and never home. The shape I turned into did not fit with the rest of the pieces.  People don’t know what to do with you when you are different. The nature of a human being is the desire for belongingness. By belonging to a group, we feel as if we are a part of something bigger and more important than ourselves. But there lies the real truth: no one is more important than you. No one is more brilliant; more painful; more complex; more beautiful; more courageous; more out-of-place than you. It took a tremendous amount of years for me to understand that.
I am a woman of the world. I am the Philippines. I am American Samoa. I am Hawai’i. I am Virginia. I am a woman of the world . . . and so are you.
#WhatsMyname #WMNCampaign