What I am is the son of poor, uneducated Portuguese immigrants. But, their lack of education and economic resources didn't mean that things like integrity, honesty, generosity, and open-mindedness weren't treasured...because, in fact, they were. And I am almost wholly defined by their example. I'm also, in many ways, an exemplar of the American Dream--i.e., upward mobility by the next generation.
Although my background is blue collar and somewhat Dickensian, I had some phenomenal experiences growing up--which I've used as the touchstone for how to approach life, and then live it (there is marrow to be sucked, and I'm usually first in line to hoover it all out). I grew up in a rough and tumble, mid-sized city in Southeastern Massachusetts. One needed both brains and brawn to survive, because it was Darwinian. On the other hand, it was also a combination of Old World and New; I grew up speaking Portuguese with my family and friends, and my entire environment was almost like living in the grittiest neighborhood in Lisbon. I loved it, in many ways, and wouldn't trade it for anything. What didn't destroy me only made me that much stronger (cue sappy music to accompany cliched back story montage).
What really helped me get to where I am now were books, and an unshakable commitment to learning. They were my ticket to ride, and I got on the Express train outta Dodge. I am now--and have been for quite some time--at a very happy place in my life.
Further, I'm a city cat, and love living in DC (though, I just only recently relocated back down here after a 5-year+ stint in Boston--which is where I went after more than a decade in DC). Man, there's just so much to do and see here, and the trade-offs (noise, congestion, etc) are more than worth it to me.
I really could go on and on with this rather narcissistic bildungsroman, but what's the fun of that? We have to leave something for more in-depth conversation over a cuppa, or a bottle of nice wine, eh?