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Mykel Murphy

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Mykel Murphy was born in Texas to young, impoverished, and quickly divorced parents who were unable to take care of him. He was taken in by surrogate grandparents, college professors who explored world perspectives and eventually moved to Thailand to start an NGO. Mykel has worked hard to join and help them in Thailand and has devoted his life to following in their footsteps.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please contact Immigration History Research Center staff for permissions not covered by this Creative Commons license.

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Whenever I’m asked about my identity, I always seem to hesitate before I answer - because it’s never been clear to me. Some people answer with their ethnicity, some with their hometown, or some with their culture. But I've always viewed my identity as an ambiguous mixture of the unique experiences I’ve had.

To give a brief context into my life so far, I was born in 1999 in a small town called Kileen in Southern Texas where my father was based in the US Army. I lived there for 3 months before my parents divorced and I moved with my mom to New Jersey. I ended up being raised in homeless shelters for a while, until we were lucky enough to meet a very nice husband and wife who more or less… adopted us.

The couple who took us in were very smart people. Both were college educated professors who spent their free time helping the less fortunate and living with them really enriched my childhood growing up. Whether it was famous authors or refugees from war-stricken countries, the house I lived in was constantly filled with people from different nationalities and backgrounds - For a while, I even shared a room with a family from Gambia! I really think this was the point of my life where I started to develop a thirst to find out more about the world.

But on my 13th birthday, that couple - who I now regard as my surrogate grandparents - moved to a small rural village in Thailand to start an NGO. For the next 5 years, I wasn’t able to see them. The role models I grew up with were suddenly gone and I made it a goal to pay them back within my life somehow. So I would go on to start and finish high school, work a countless amount of menial jobs, and eventually save up enough money to go to Thailand myself and help them out.

Shortly after I turned 18, I got my visa and made the trip over to the small town called Phrao. Coming from parents that had never left the US before, this was huge for me. I was able to experience so many new things, like learning a new language, a new culture, and best of all - new foods. I worked on rice farms and had to learn to live without electricity. Although it took some time to get used to, I was able to really embrace the lifestyle. The time I spent there inspired me to continue my life always in pursuit of adventure - just like my grandparents would want. That's why I chose to continue my studies here in Japan and hopefully, keep traveling to new places around the world.

So the reason why I can never sum up my identity very neatly is because it’s always changing - I don’t think I’ll ever want to call just one place “home”. To me, home is whatever you make of it.