I was born into a family of two individuals that grew up in the same area they decided to raise their family, just as their parents before them and theirs before them. I attended an extremely small school (k-12 in one building) located in an incredibly tiny town where right-wing politics dominated our education. I attended daycare with the kids that I would grow up to identify as “my crowd”, the popular ones (I know how that sounds, please refrain from rolling your eyes!) that were the offspring of the same crown 20-30 years prior. Our parents all knew each other, and we were being set to follow in their foot steps; Future homecoming queens and basketball stars in the making. Thankfully I refused to be a blind sheep led with the rest of the flock.
I’m not sure how I turned out to be different from the rest. It wasn’t an intentional thing. I guess, I’ve always had a set of ideals different from those in my home town. I remember in sixth grade doing a report on homosexuality in America, and being particularly pleased with myself when I finished reading it to my class, only to be met with gaping eyes and a few jaws dropped. The information was not made readily available for me to research by teachers, so I had to go to Indiana University with my mom one day and pull what information I could. Looking back on it, I’m quite proud that I did not allow the politics of my location to stop me from expressing myself and my thoughts.
As I got older I became more comfortable with being the “different” one. I was still considered popular, if you will. I still fulfilled the role of being an athlete, a good student, popular with teachers etc. It makes me laugh now that I think of it because I look back and see myself just pleasing everyone else.
In my teenage years it became very apparent to me that not too far from my reach was not just a different location, but a different world. Had I grown up on the other side of the street I would have attended Monroe County schools. I would have interacted with children that were Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, African-American, Hispanic, Asian, instead of the predominately Caucasian Methodist kids I became to know as my friends. I couldn’t wait to get to Indiana University…
And then I did. And I freaked. For the first time I was outside of my bubble and it was indeed a different life. I wasn’t “different” anymore, I was simply naive. School was overwhelming. The politics were different. The life was different. Kids my age had experienced far more than I had, and looking back I wondered how I was kept from what the rest of the world seemed to be experiencing.
I took it in stride and am now proud to be a Bloomingtonian. I’ve lived here (albeit 20 minutes from home) for five years now and I feel as if I could live in another state than where I am from. I am proud to attend and work for a University that gives voice to a powerful youth. I’m proud to attend a University that gives us knowledge that I could have never have hoped to reach had I stayed in my little bubble of Solsberry, Indiana. I am happy that I can eat Thai, Indian, or Turkish food on any given night. I proud that I had the opportunity to embrace His Holiness, the Dalai Lama just a few short months ago. Location is everything, I’m living proof. Even if I had attended IU and then went “back home” as many of my classmates did. I’d be on kid #2 and sitting at Rosie’s diner on Saturday mornings talking about Mr. XYZ’s Christmas lights. I’m so happy that wasn’t the choice I made.
Another significant difference in my life was that of my relationship. My boyfriend was born in South Africa and his family moved here when he was three years old. His parents spend half of their time here and the rest of the year there. I’ve never had my eyes opened to so much world politics and knowledge before I had met them. It seems as though those outside of the United States are far more aware of what is going on in the world than Americans. Through their knowledge, I have learned so much of the world, and myself.
The politics of my location aren’t just my location. They are the politics of my sex, my race, my gender, my relationships, and my education. I’m proud to say I’ve come a long way– but I’ve still got quite a bit to go, and hopefully I will always be on the journey to improve.