I’m home from college for the summer. I returned from from a big city in the North to a small town in the South. I knew going back home was going to be different given that I’m so different from when I left, but I had no idea what was in store.
Everyone says freshman year of college brings tremendous change and they’re not wrong. About halfway through the year, I came to the realization that for most of my life I’d been pretending to be someone I wasn’t. I was confined by the conservative mindset of the Bible Belt. My whole life I had to follow the rules based on Christian morals or be shunned by my peers. I conformed to this mindset throughout high school, put on a mask, and tried to convince myself that I could be the person people in the South wanted me to be.
As my first year in college progressed in the liberal city, I began to realize I could really open up to my new friends without judgement. They didn’t have strict ideals of who I should be and how I should act like my friends from back home did. My new friends came from all over the country and all over the globe and had open minds. Their open-mindedness made them willing to accept me for whoever I chose to be. After I realized this fact I opened up and found happiness I didn’t know existed. I took risks, tried new things, and began to lose any fears of people judging me for any actions I took; if they were going to judge me, simple enough- they shouldn’t be my friend. My new friends truly accepted the real me and made me feel comfortable in my own skin. I was home for the first time in my life.
I hate the South because the people are so closed minded. If you don’t meet their moral standards you are a sinner. Their views are right and yours are wrong. Anything different is wrong. The South is a little bubble stuck in their old christian ways ignorant to the evolving world around them.
I realize times change and we all fade from our high school friends eventually. I returned home to them and tried to show them the new me and I was met with disgust. They don’t approve of my partying or my sexual habits. I am a sinner in their eyes. These actions make my whole person despicable to them. Those things do not define me though. They are small pieces that compose my being and I am proud of who I am despite their judgement. I know I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I know I am a good person despite their accusations. I know it is okay to be the real me even if they refuse to accept it.
I used to think I appreciated growing up in the South, but I realize now that I do not. The mindsets of people surrounding me in this location prevented me from being myself and finding true happiness. Luckily moving to a more liberal area allowed me to identify this issue before it was too late. It’s going to be a long summer home, but only 3 months and I’ll be back at school with people that accept the real me. After that I’m never looking back at my Southern roots again.