Growing up in the Midwest I never realized how truly amazing I had it. I was in one of the political centers of the country at one of the most hostile times in our country’s recent history. I lived in a climate that exposed me to sports and hobbies I never would have experienced living in the south (skiing, racing down hill, building 14 foot tall snow balls in the middle of the street, riding a snowmobile to school). I was exposed to a way of thinking I never would have gotten outside of the midwest and I am so fortunate to have grown up in a place that fostered me into the adult I am becoming.
Living in the Midwest however, most of my extended family was in the south. I had some extended family in Iowa but I only saw them a handful of times. Most of my close family, the family we took the time to travel to visit, lived in the south. My cousins and grandmother in Tennessee, my grandmother’s family and the family tobacco plantation in Virginia. I always wanted to know what it would be like to be a part of the southern world. I wanted to know what it would be like to have friends ask about my family history and feel able to answer with slightly less shame behind the words “we own a tobacco plantation”. I spent 19 years seeking a way to bring myself to the south, and when the opportunity arose my decision to move came with limited hesitation.
I don’t regret moving to the south. I have learned some valuable life lessons about culture, politics, and the state of the American educational system. I learned about personal perspective, religion, and the diversity of America as a whole. Most importantly I learned that despite where I may travel my political views have been set in some pretty serious stone since 2009 and while I have become a little less shy about vocalizing them, neither being raised in the north or moving to the south did little to impact them overall. Moving to the south and analyzing how the move, and the culture shock that came with it, changed me as a person made me realize I don’t want to live in the south forever. I understand having lived here for three years the temptation so many people feel to move back to their hometown after college, and I have even experienced a little bit of that longing myself over the past few months.
However most importantly moving to the south made me discover my independence. Moving across the country taught me that regardless of who I surround myself with I am my own person, with my own goals. I have a life that I assembled myself over years of hard work and I am no longer willing to let another person keep me from my wanderlust. I made a promise to myself in late 2010 as I walked the streets of Oxford, London, and Herefordshire with my best friend that I would find myself back there one day. I promised myself my passport would one day run out pages. I promised myself I would at one point live in a city where a car was frivolous and unnecessary. I promised myself I would travel for extended periods of time and that I would move multiple times so I could experience life in as many diverse locations as possible.
In 2013 I walked away from a relationship and an engagement that would have likely still allowed me my European adventure because I wanted to seek out some American adventures on my own first. I walked away from a man who loved me, cared for me, and treated me better then I deserved because I was seeking independence. I made a life altering decision in April of 2013 when I choose to keep my promise to myself to live a life of adventure, and packed all of my belongings into my car and drive across the country. So I won’t be living in the south forever, because I already sacrificed so much to make it here that it would be letting myself down if I never left.