Saturday, March 9, 2013

What's in a Name?

The Escapades of an Escaped Southern Belle. . . if you don't know my story, the title may strike you as a little odd. So, let me explain myself. For those of you who do know me, maybe you'll learn a little more.

This is a story I've wanted to tell for a long time and one that isn't an easy one to write. I guess it really all started when I studied in London in July 2008. It was the summer before my senior year, and I had started to think about where I would be applying for grad school the next year. Well, "think" is really the wrong word, I guess. I always assumed I would stay at my undergrad university (Southern MS), graduate with my MA or higher, and begin teaching English at a community college in Mississippi. Considering that idea now, it seems completely foreign to me. The decision was a huge factor in the person I am today.

So, although I traveled with a group from Southern Miss to attend British Studies, I didn't really know anyone because I only transferred from community college the year before and had a close group of friends left over from those days. Though I had been to Europe before when I was younger, I was surrounded (and shepherded) by family members the entire time. Besides, I was too young to really experience the sense of losing oneself in a place where no one knows you, you're unfamiliar with the public transportation, and you have to learn to like Indian food because hamburgers are grey instead of brown. In 2008, it was completely different. I learned that I had the ability to make friends anywhere, to get around any city alone, and to rely only on myself.

Needless to say, this feeling was incredibly empowering. When I returned to MS, I craved more adventure, more new places. People always ask me "how in the world" I chose Vermont of all places, and I always make a joke about looking appealing on the internet (which is true), but really, I believe that it's simply where I am supposed to be. The next year, after applying to my undergrad university, Penn State, and CUNY, I changed my spring break plans quickly from a trip to Austin, TX (where I still need to visit), and flew with my parents and two brothers into Burlington with my UVM acceptance letter in hand.

It was cold and windy and grey, but I knew as soon as I saw the central campus (which held architecture styles I imagined would sit on campuses like Harvard) that it was the place for me. Though my mom told me I should wait longer to make a decision, I had already made up my mind; UVM was my top choice.

To say that Mississippi and Vermont and complete opposites is almost an understatement. From political and social attitudes to religious views and general approaches to life, it was like jumping into a foreign country all over again. I had to learn to recycle (yes, I'm serious), went for my first hikes, and (more recently) went sledding, snoweshoeing, skiing, and snowboarding.

Most importantly, though, I learned a lot about my self. Moving from one of the most conservative places in the United States to one of the most liberal, I learned that I fall in-between. I learned that, sadly, homophobia and racism still run rampant in the South, and I learned how to get that voice out of my head that tells me to judge others because of their beliefs, what they're wearing, or what their backgrounds are. I also learned it's important not to adopt everything about my new environment and that there are some beliefs I grew up with that are worth keeping. In short, I learned about tolerance and acceptance, even though I thought I was way ahead of the game in MS. I felt like I went from being somewhat liberal-minded in the South to being ultra-conservative in Vermont, though nothing really changed.

There are many things I love and miss about the South. For one, it's a heck of a lot warmer. Then, of course, there's that Southern hospitality (which, sometimes, forced or not), is pleasant to be around. It took me quite a while to realize that some of the northerners who I thought were a bit too curt were simply more honest, and now I prefer to have real honesty above fake geniality.Of course, it's also hard to be away from my family and old friends- especially my younger brothers, whom I miss terribly. Those feelings improved a bit when one of my best friends from home (Caroline) moved up for about eight months, and when my brother Kevin came to stay for several months this past summer as well. It was nice to have ties to home so far away,  and I feel very blessed to have had both of them as roommates- even if my brother is very untidy.

Speaking of the South, let's address my southern accent and the fact that I tried so hard to lose it when I first moved up north. Being in a MA program for English Literature, I felt so uncomfortable at first because I knew that there's a stigma around Southerners that we simply aren't as intelligent. Granted, I learned that my English program at USM was really nothing like the VERY theory-based program I entered at the University of Vermont, and I wished that I had actually ever been required to taking a psychology class instead of substituting Biblical Studies. I suppressed my accent to the point where I have to actually think about speaking that way today. I've been clinging tight to my "y'alls" for a while now, but other than that, it doesn't come out a lot, and I have mixed feelings about that. 

Today, I'm patiently waiting for the reason that everyone lives in Vermont (don't let them tell you otherwise)- the gorgeous, perfect summers. Really, they're the only reason even some life-long residents can make it through the winter, and I'm feeling the urge to sit in the warm VT sun as well. Last summer, in fact, was the time that I realized that Vermont had a true hold on me. I wanted to stick around for a while, and if I move, it will always have a huge place in my heart. I can't promise I won't grow old here, but I am on constant watch for new adventures, places, and experiences with good friends.

I'll always be a southern girl at heart, but Vermont is the place that I'm happy. It's a place where anyone can be who she wants. It's a place where hippies, farmers, politicians, musicians, and business people are one. We all work together to support our community, our health, and our happiness. There's a general feeling of open-mindedness that ties us all together, and I don't know how many places you can really find that these days. 

 So, there's my rambling first post. Though I have to admit I did spare you some of the details, I'm sure they'll all come out at some point. In the future, my blog will be an assortment of different topics. From fashion and fitness to healthy living, traveling, and everyday life, I hope it provides you with some knowledge and laughs along the way. 

I leave you with a photo of the beautiful state I live in: 

No comments:

Post a Comment