When I was 19 years old, I had moved away from home. I was in college in a new town with new people and I did that with intention. I did that to get away from the influences of the small town where I was raised. I did that to get away from the classmates I had known all of my life.
And I did that to get away from my parents.
They still influenced me, though, even from 300 miles away. I hid my first tattoo for six months. They didn’t know I drank alcohol with my new friends–yes, underage. They didn’t know that I skipped classes because they were boring and attendance wasn’t mandatory.
I was asked, when I was 21 or 22, if I was a Republican or Democrat. I had always heard Republican growing up so I said Republican. She then quizzed me on policies and I learned I was a Democrat, despite being raised in a Republican environment.
In high school I participated in sports because everyone participated in sports. I didn’t enjoy them but it was the expected thing. I joined clubs because it was the well-rounded thing to do even though the only ones I really enjoyed were The Arts(tm). Theater, advanced art classes, after school scrapbooking classes. But these were not activities people expected of students in my school.
That was all 20+ years ago.
If I were to travel back to 1999 and stand next to myself, I would look like my own cool but black sheep aunt from out of town. I wouldn’t look like an older version of myself. I make a distinction between where I was raised and where I grew up. Because they were definitely not the same place. I did a lot more growing up in my five years at university than in the 19 years before.
Some of the people I went to school with, who never left that town or only moved to the next town over but kept all the same friends, would look* like an older version of themselves.
I make a distinction between where I was raised and where I grew up. Because they were definitely not the same place. I did a lot more growing up in my five years at university than in the 19 years before.
And I think that’s the real discussion, here. When you have lived in the same place, in a small community, your entire life, it is very easy to find yourself in a place of complacency. Sure, at 19 years old you are old enough to start thinking for yourself and questioning authority but there’s a saying, “You can’t know what you don’t know you don’t know.” You can’t ask questions if you don’t know there is a question to be asked. Until an outside influence points out that there is a different perspective, you don’t seek out that different perspective.
Once you get out of that situation, however–IF you get out of that situation–and you encounter different people with different experiences from different backgrounds, you then know there were questions to be asked.
And it’s easy, at 40 years old, to say, “I should have done better.” And you can think that all day, every day, for the rest of your life. And it’s not untrue. But I think people fail to realize how deeply embroiled a person can be in the systems of a small community. The best lesson isolation can teach us is ignorance.
*I don’t mean “look” in the physical sense, not entirely. I mean in terms of personality, values, priorities…
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