Monday, June 25, 2012
I have family in Southern California, and, as luck would have it, so does the friend that I am staying with in Northern California. This past Wednesday, we decided to head down to SoCal to visit our family.
I spent 5 of my most formative years in San Diego. This is where all of my father's family lives--this is where he is from. But I've lived in the South since I was 8 years old, but San Diego has always been the place I thought I'd go "back home" to. I've romanticized it. And hell, anyone who's ever been to SD knows that it lives up to most of it. Now, I'm a Southerner in all the ways that counts, and I've struggled with it, denied it, hated it, loved it, owned it, and am proud of it. I'm a radical progressive--I teach race, gender, and sexuality at a college level. I know the problems--I fight to find solutions. And I think every bit of my progressive ideology came not from some influence from my SoCal family, but from my Southern, rural, working-class upbringing. I love the South, for all it's problems, not in spite of it.
I'm in transition. I've just finished my doctorate and when the jobs come out for academic positions, I'll be on THAT roller coaster ride. In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out my "place" in the world. I meant that as much geographically as I do philosophically. I have felt the pull of the West since I was a little girl. From the New Mexico desert to the snowy mountains of Northern Nevada, to the beaches of California. But I sure thought this visit to California would make it easier on me.
I've loved every second that I've been here in Northern California, but the trip to Southern California has left me feeling a little conflicted. I guess I had this idea that being there would help me feel that I was home again. That I had finally found my place. I've never really felt quite at home anywhere. I've certainly adapted and felt comfortable--I've called Memphis home for 15 years. But since I was a little girl, I've felt restless--uncomfortable in my own skin. Maybe, I thought, it was because I wasn't where I should be. Maybe I just wasn't in the right place.
Don't get me wrong, San Diego and Los Angeles were fun and exciting. San Diego was so familiar--but it wasn't magical. It felt, in many ways, like Memphis has felt over the past few years--a place where I would live and try to make home. But more than anything, I think it reminded me that this journey wasn't going to be easy. The problem I am facing is not place, or circumstance, or fitting in, or settling down, or slowing down. Maybe I'm not even facing a problem. Maybe I'm just facing--me. For the first time I'm facing myself in transition. Let me see if I can articulate this more clearly: I think maybe I've always felt a little outside of myself, and at important crossroads or transition periods in my life, I've always evaluated myself from the outside--I've measured my value from other people's measuring sticks: degrees, accolades, awards. But those never satisfied me. Even when I got them, I never feel like I quite earned them--I felt like a fraud, or like they were given to me for some dubious reason. I hadn't earned them, they must have given them to me because no one else wanted them. I've lived most of my life with a lot of doubt about my self worth. By and large, I have a hefty and unresolved self-esteem issue...but that's another story.
But I always thought that I would finally lose the weight SO easily once I [insert completed accomplishment here] or finally moved to [insert romanticized geographical location here]. You know the old "I'll start the diet when my life isn't so crazy." Mine was, "I'll finally lose weight when I've accomplished something." It's as if I have equated being healthy with finally deserving to be healthy. This is a problem, considering that I have feelings of very little self-worth.
So this trip has taught me a few things that were unexpected. One is that my body, when given a challenge and left to its own devices (e.g., when my mind isn't convincing it that its instincts are wrong), is one hell of an amazing thing. Another is that my tendency to look for affirmation and acceptance from solely external sources will not magically disappear if I move to California. And finally, that there is no easy fix. This is going to be hard. I'm going to have to unlearn a lot of bad s**t. I'm going to have to learn a lot of new s**t.
I do want to apologize for rambling. I'm sure a lot of this doesn't make sense, but I am working this out as I type. I've spend many, many years self-censoring. I'm trying a new approach. :)