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Culture Shock

Culture Shock

Once upon a time, there was a woman who found herself living in the deep south. She wasn’t from there. She didn’t really fit in. She stubbornly refused to adopt a southern accent, and it was pointed out on occasion by various people she interacted with. “Where are you from?” they’d ask.

direction photoDepending on her mood, she’d answer Michigan, New Jersey, or Massachusetts. All were true, to a point. Born in Michigan, formative years in Jersey, and graduated high school in New England. She definitely did not have a childhood anything like many of the people she knew. She found many people, especially in rural America, lived relatively sheltered lives, even in this age of global connectivity. They have lived in the same relative area their entire lives, and often their parents and grandparents grew up there, as well. They went to school with the same group of kids from kindergarten through high school. They have had the same neighbors for years on end. And they hear the same ideas, political, religious, and social, in every direction. One has to consciously look for dissenting opinions in a homogeneous society. That is not a comfortable thing to do, and most people prefer to be comfortable.

Moving frequently as a child and young adult meant that the protagonist in our little story here was repeatedly confronted with people who didn’t think like her. Different backgrounds, different groups of peers, and different experiences led to different outlooks. The new kid on the block always feels the differences, and our Yankee in Robert E Lee’s Garden never felt them more strongly than when the southern culture shock set in.

After graduating to “official adulthood”, this woman had settled in to life in the south as best she could. She was raising her kids – kids who articulated their words in a peculiar way according to those who heard them. Clearly raised by a Yankee, and a former English teacher at that. She would deny any hint that she was “from” Mississippi vehemently, but she was ok living there. She would always claim any other place she’d ever lived as her origin before she claimed the south. In 2018, though, she realized that she had lived more of her life in Mississippi than in all the other places combined.

mississippi photoWhy did she resist claiming the state so desperately? Maybe it was time to open her eyes and her arms and embrace fully the fact that, though she was from elsewhere, Mississippi was home. Home to a liberal, secular, freethinking Yankee. 

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