Call for Origin Stories


A few days ago I shared my origin story here. I described the moment I decided… realized… the moment I discovered my motivation for being a multilingual person. Ok, being multilingual is not exactly a superpower, but it’s what I got, so I hope you’ll play along.

I want to know your origin story. What was the moment: where were you, what were you doing, what were you smelling… the moment you decided/realized/discovered your motivation for becoming a superhero.

Listen, if you always knew, then give us a moment when you decided. If there’s no decisive moment, then MAKE ONE UP; that’s called an “origin myth” and we like those too. Nobody wants to hear a boring, unspecific story. None of those superheroes that I’m watching movies about have boring origin stories, so MAKE IT GOOD.

Remember how to describe a moment; it involves a time, place, sights, sounds, and ACTIONS. Extra points for smells and textures, that makes stories really good.

Please leave your origin stories in the comments of this blog, either by typing directly in the comments or by blogging in your own blog and leaving the link in the comments below for us to find.

You know who you are. I won’t call anyone out by name but… Katie. Frank. Rob. Yes you, Rob. And the rest of you all too; if you have an origin story about becoming that super accountant; the math teacher, the jazz trumpet player… who ever you are, please share with us: what was the moment that made you… you?


5 thoughts on “Call for Origin Stories

  1. Ok, here’s an origin story for ya!

    By the time I was five, we’d moved to Japan, and it was the third country I’d lived in. I’d recently learned to read and was fascinated by the Japanese signs everywhere – so different from the ABC’s of my native English! One night we’d gone downtown for dinner – I had my first Japanese food, wonton soup, and was in love – and I pointed up at the neon Japanese sign on the side of a building and asked my Dad what it said. “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s Japanese and I can’t read it.” I was floored. This was huge – Japanese was so totally different from English that my Dad couldn’t even read it at all! I wanted to know everything about it.

    We lived on a US military base with mostly other monolingual American families, and my parents homeschooled me (all in English) but I did what I could, as a kid, to get ahold of some of that tantalizing Japanese. I made friends with the only Japanese-American kids on the block, and spent hours “chatting” with their Japanese Grandma, who didn’t speak English. I’d come home munching some seaweed or crunching on a little bitty steamed crab and saying things the rest of my family didn’t understand. They were bemused but tolerant of my strangeness.

    We had a Japanese culture festival on base and I was in heaven. I made a beeline for the sushi tasting table. My mother warned me, saying “You won’t like that – it’s raw fish!” I insisted on trying it and have been a sushi fiend ever since.

    We moved back to the US when I was eight, and I lost all contact with Japan, and the Japanese language and culture, except for very occasionally when I could convince somebody to take me to a Japanese restaurant, which was pretty rare since I was the only one who really liked Japanese food. I lost almost all my Japanese language, and it feels strange to have memories where I remember understanding what people said to me in Japan, remember what it meant in English, but can’t remember the Japanese anymore.

    I was sad but I didn’t feel like there was anything I could do about it. Nobody I knew could speak Japanese anymore. I took French in high school (the only other option being Spanish) because I wanted to have a special secret language with my French-Canadian grandma, but she didn’t want to speak her first language with me. I never figured out why. After getting hurt trying to use French with my family, I didn’t try to use it anywhere else, and so three years of high school French that only got used in the classroom didn’t stick either.

    Luckily languages still fascinated me, and I still had a bit of that little-girl wonder, that memory of looking up at all that glittering neon Japanese and wanting to absorb it all, so when I got a chance to go to China in college I took it. And that summer trip was too short, so I went back again for a whole semester. And that was too short too, so I just up and moved to China completely, where I can indulge all my language learning whims, and not only read the neon signs but speak with my friends in their own language, and soak up as much of the language and culture and amazing amazing duck liver stuffed eggplant as I can hold.

    I’ll make it back to Japan one day, too.


    • Love it, Frank! I learned the word “bruschette” in Italy, so I kind of have to say in that way too. To me, “brew-shedda” sounds like a) the lady that corrected me at the italian restaurant and then came back to apologize, and b) ONLY ONE PIECE. My sister does an impression of Giada chopping onions, managing to get her cleavage into the chopping close up. Also, LET’S ALL GO TO JAPAN.


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