Wednesday, November 19, 2003

I think it's time to move out of Ohio again. I need to go somewhere less anti-intellectual, more pro-liberal, and surround myself with like-minded people. I grew up feeling somehow "wrong" because I thought so differently than most of the people who lived in my hometown, which is small: three thousand strong. Yeah, *that* small. And a farm community to boot. So the values with which I was instilled I never really understood. Growing up, I was pretty quiet about important things, about the things I believed and valued. I was loud and funny in other ways, and chatty and made friends easily, but in order to do this, the friendships couldn't be based on anything real and important. When I did find people who thought similarly, they were an hour away, in Youngstown (pop. 82,026).

This was a HUGE move for me. My family worried. They bribed me to stay at home, or to at least not move INTO the city. (Yes, that's a city to people like my parents and grandparents and siblings). Of course, it didn't help that in the 80s and 90s Youngstown was the murder capitol of America, maybe the world, I forget. Definitely America, though. This of course due to the rate of murders per capita. There were reasons for this, of course, but I won't go into them, and at any rate, it's no longer the murder capitol, and I've never seen a murder, though I've heard gun shots and heard many sirens in my years here.

When I started school here, I didn't talk in classes. When the professors called on me, I would keep my answers as brief as possible, even when their eyes would light up and they'd ask me to continue or elaborate. I felt that whatever I said would still be so different from other people's ideas that I'd get weird reactions and people would tell me I was stupid or naive. But I found people on campus who thought similarly to me, and it was the most amazing thing I ever experienced. I slowly began to feel free to talk for the first time without frustration. I made friends who understood me without much trouble, or without any trouble at all. I learned how to be more comfortable in my own skin than I'd ever been before.

Then I moved away, to California, which didn't work out, and then to Michigan, which didn't work out, and now back to Youngstown, which is kind of working out. But after grading 100 essays in which students are supposed to critique some aspect of American culture, and finding that most of them are staunch defenders of complacency and the old saying, "If you don't like it here, then leave," not realizing that they're abdicating a patriotic duty to criticize their government in order to change it for the better, I feel drained and alienated and dream of a college town like Ann Arbor or Madison, where I would probably be found to hold some very conservative beliefs compared to other inhabitants of those cities.

This is a fantasy, of course. But I'm seriously aching for someplace different. I want to feel safe in my own skin again. I haven't felt that way in a long time, for several years now. I want that back again.


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