On Sundays I used to go to church with my family, come home at noon to eat lunch, and then spend the afternoon watching movies, reading, or walking in the woods behind my house. Family dinner was at 7pm. Afterward my mom would do her round of “checks” for myself and my three sisters: checking that our backpacks were packed, homework was finished, school uniforms were in the wash. Nothing too strenuous. Sundays allowed a chance to catch your breath. The past few years my Sundays have been anything but, with homework and regular part-time work and meetings taking up the entire day. If there is anything I can accomplish in the next few months it would be to reclaim my Sundays and work on those “hobbies” that everyone else pushes aside and regrets twenty years down the road when they are washed up and hate their desk job.
My roommate and I have created a system of making and fixing up coffee without leaving our desks, entering a stage of life we wouldn’t wish on anyone, but everyone faces at some point.
While doing the now necessary updating of Twitter lists and reading of forgotten articles in my Reader (how I sometimes miss the days when Google was just a search engine and “twitter” was really just a sound), I saw an update from Electric Literature (one if not the first electronic literary magazine) sharing a link to a NY Times article “The Perils of ‘Contact Me'” . It’s worth a read, speaking about how writers are more accessible and the astounding responses from fans asking every question and calling out every mistake (welcome to the Internet Age/social media/email/the feeling of freedom “average people” have to reach out to those they idolize i.e. following the updates of celebrities on Twitter). The writer is Ben Yagoda, an English professor at the University of Delaware who blogs at Campus Comments with his family about higher education. Maybe it is at the fault of my own snootiness, but I was a little surprised that a professor from lil’ old Delaware where I grew up wrote an article published in MY New York Times.
During extreme moods of cynicism, I have often compared Delaware to a vapid black hole that sucks people in and keeps them stuck in a state where a state border sign reads “Delaware: Welcome to the home of tax-free shopping”. To “outsiders” it is supposedly the only claim to fame the Diamond State offers. As much as I am afraid to admit this, there is an unspoken opinion in my family that the fact that my sisters and I went out-of-state for college is among one of our many great accomplishments. When I come home for a family holiday, the same routine ensues. I will get invited to an event, see people from my high school, and hear that not much has happened in their lives. My sisters and I will return home, roll our eyes, same old same old, the bars close at 1 pm, so and so dropped out, some one else is knocked up. But I digress.
Let’s get metaphoric. It begins where your whole life is just your bedroom, then your house, next you are off to school and it’s a big exciting adventure, then you might move on to start another life, but the previous world of your home is always in your mind. Up until a few years ago, before going to college, Delaware was the extent of what I knew. Going off to school exposed me to a larger world I hadn’t imagined. Going back home, or seeing the name of a university in your home town in a newspaper you revere, makes you more aware that in this life you have (your views and impressions through your own eyes), the background you come from affects every life decision you have, therefore you will always be of the same smaller world you started from, but can learn and experience so much more – a world that always existed but wasn’t reality to you until coming to a crossroad. You always open doors into other worlds and make jumps into the abyss of discovering something different, whether it’s by moving overseas, taking on a new career path, or reading more Kafka.
I should give my home state more credit. There was a time when the my entire life was late nights in diners drinking copious amounts of cheap coffee and going to friends’ basements for shows. My “world” is considerably different from the past, but it is still being experienced through the mind of one hailing from a previous one, yet it somehow encapsulates everything that is my existence. All in all, you can never escape your background or hide the truth of where you came from. Having a small-town background is nothing to be ashamed of. While appearing almost too eager and possible over zealous, it means we (the small towners) are much more enthusiastic and open for possibilities. In case you have forgotten, the majority of the United States is “small town Americans” who love their Walmart. Conclusion: think twice before you make another joke about my childhood in Delaware or my Mid Western-esque accent.
I couldn’t even pretend to hide my background if I tried. Last spring I was on the LIRR talking to a guy in a jazzy looking hat. Within five minutes he knew I wasn’t from New York – probably because I was actually talking to him AND smiling at the same time. When I was in Italy last winter, I would be laughed at in the face with my “terrible” American quasi Delawarean somewhat still Mid Western accent. No matter how large my dream was to “blend in” and not look like a tourist, having blond hair, blue eyes, and a “terrible” American accent was not going to fool anyone. When I go out on the weekends, I get in the habit of taking others aback by being overly talkative. It has taken my four years to realize New Yorkers may not like this.