Sunday, April 02, 2006

leaving

I've lived in southern Louisiana my entire life.

To be honest, I never really fit in completely with the "Southern Identity", so it's a good thing that the gulf coast and particularly New Orleans aren't really typical of the rest of the South. My maternal grandparents are from the Midwest, and my father's parents are natives of Texas, but both of my parents spent most of their lives in a suburb of New Orleans on the Northshore of Lake Ponchartrain, the same community where they raised me. For the first eighteen years of my life, that town was my world.

There were a lot of things that I loved, and some other things that just didn't seem to be quite right to me. I loved the food, the water everywhere, Mardi Gras, the proximity of the wonder that is New Orleans. On the other hand, I never really "got" a lot of things that others embrace--I remember reacting with shock the first time I saw a rebel flag hanging in the garage of one of my parents' friends whom I respected and admired, and asking my mother if Mr. Kenny really thought that black people should be slaves, and if not why was he hanging that flag? It just didn't make sense to me.

My parents took me to D.C. when I was two, and since then I haven't been further north than Missouri or further west than Texas. Friends who vacationed to distant Northern cities would return with tales of how rude the people were, how bad the food was, how it was hellish compared to our blessed southern oasis. People refer to themselves proudly as "Southerners", and grown women self-identify as "G.R.I.T.S." (girls raised in the south, conveniently acronymed to resemble a popular southern breakfast food). Through a series of words and images, the rest of the country is constructed as a wasteland of hyper-liberal assholes with bad food and no culture. In the minds of southerners, the south is a bastion of truth, beauty, kindness, and all that is good.

I started to realize somewhere around the age of sixteen that perhaps I might be a liberal. And I began to notice that despite everything taught in our schools about equality and tolerance, racism and hatred are blatantly rampant. Suddenly I was seeing the south in more complicated terms, and it was hard for me. I just couldn't shake off the hypocrisy and ignorance that was becoming more and more obvious to me, but I still loved my family, my hometown, my people.

A year from now I'll be applying to grad school, and most of my choices are predictably in the south. However, a close friend of mine recently applied and was accepted to both NYU and Columbia in the same program that I plan on pursuing (yay Shannon!) and suggested that I apply as well. The idea is enticing, but the thought of moving to New York terrifies me. The south may have its problems, but it's always been home. And while I'm eager to expand my horizons and grow personally and professionally, and I think moving to another part of the country could help me do that, I've only moved once and that was a mere ninety miles away from my hometown.

I worry that in gaining perspective and experience, I'll lose a part of who I am, and I'm afraid because I know that if I leave I'll probably never come back.

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1 Old Comments:

you hit the nail on the head there. i've lived in the south for the past four years, and while i love the hospitality, the sweet tea and the laid-back nature of life, it's surreal living in a place where you still see the stars 'n' bars on a daily basis. i say go for new york!

By Blogger copasetic fish, at Fri Jun 02, 11:30:00 AM CDT