I am not letting in the sweetness of life right now, someone observed of me today. He’s right. I’m not happy. I will be happy when my plane takes off next week, but today I am so hanging on here by a thread.
I have no place where I really belong. I am everywhere on earth, yet no where at the same time.
I grew up in the south. My dad’s parents still own the family land that goes back to the original settlements in our state, and my dad’s uncles lived without electricity until they died in the 90s (oh, and when one of my great uncles died, they just burned down his house because it was that junky). My Mom’s mother flaunts that her great relatives owned a plantation and had slaves, and that her grandparents were the first people in town to own a car.
Despite the crazy relatives, I am a native by birth right since people here do discriminate against outsiders (especially if you’re from the North East; you will never stop hearing that you’re a yankee!). I should belong here. Our relatives are celebrated in the county fair, ya know?
But heck no, the culture drains my whole being.
1. The culture is laid back with a non-adventuresome spirit. The summers are hot, sticky, and miserable, and people tend to stuff their faces with food and stay indoor to cope with it. Heck the lake feels like a hot-tub in August. Sure, the outdoors is great when you’re a kid who likes to swing on vines, catch tadpoles, chase cattle, and beat snake’s heads off. But adults do basically nothing outdoor wise, other than farming or cattle. Because its too hot.
2. There is no hills or great hikes or great nature within close driving distance. (unless we count the swamp)
3. Our local library is pathetic. They have almost no intellectual books, only children’s books and chick flick books. And a few pop cultural Christian books.
4. The movie theater is packed out on Saturday, but the lakes are insanely quiet compared.
5. Friends want to hang out at coffee shops.
6. I rarely see people cycling.
7. The winter is ugly; the summer hot.
8. I have to beg people to go on old fashion walks.
9. There are almost no Asians or multi-cultured life. What the locals consider Chinese food is like calling Taco bell Mexican food. And the supposedly Thai restaurant that makes most people’s eyes water taste like plain mashed potatoes compared to the real deal.
10. Everyone is street friendly, howdy ya, do, and oh, why did you leave the good ‘ol life in good ‘ol deep south again? Oh, and can you speak some language to me? And how long were you gone? oh, and you are crazy for staying gone that long. What does your family say? Oh, and YOU ARE NUTS.
11. But few care for deeper conversations, or pushing boundaries.
12. The culture is gossipy. Don’t get on their bad side.
13. Everyone will ask you about your relationship with God. Even the cashier.
14. The neighbors will tell you about how bad the democrats are. And Catholics. Don’t forget that the Catholics will burn in hell too.
15. I can’t go anywhere and get alone. I run into people I know. everywhere. And that means conversations back to #10 and #13, and listening to #11
16. Racism, homophobia, and classism. They are loved here.
17. Leave for three years, come back, and NOTHING has changed. It’s um, creepy. People are suppose to change.
In fact, I hate the south so much my stomach goes in knots just driving over the border from West Virginia to Virginia.
Back to my discussion of my kid life. I didn’t go to school and remained so separated from mainstream culture that mainstream culture is basically my second language. In a sense, I will always be a ASOC student – Americanism as a Second Culture student.
But then I also no longer have roots in whatever sort of connection I had to our subculture. I left fundamentalism and evangelicalism behind, and the Southern culture in our region is totally anti-people who have liberal ideas. Just the other day I was trying to explain to someone that “no, people who are so not dispensationalists-the-world-is-about-to-end kind of folks are not stupid.” Those kind of conversations are, quite frankly, exhausting, and they can result in hurtful replies back, “what? You don’t believe in the substitutionary atonement. Have you said the sinners prayer?” FROM THE CASHIER.
I can’t be myself in my home state. I can’t explain myself. Not my personality (the hiking, the traveling, the experience), not my goals, not my beliefs.
I swear, when God made me, he put me on the wrong place on earth. People talk about being transgendered. I’m transcountried.
Luckily the remedy isn’t too bad.
I’m head to the Pacific Northwest for the school year, then flying to Asia next summer.
Anyone else born on the wrong region of earth? Raise hands! Don’t be shy.