When I first told my mom that I wanted to go to school in Texas, she was shocked. Of course she was happy for me, but she was understandably confused. I had grown up in Southern California my whole life, as had both my parents. Most of my family lived very close to me, and I felt that everything I would ever need or want was right there. We don’t know anyone in Texas, or anywhere near Texas for that matter. We are a California people, after all. Despite all this, I felt some draw to the great state of Texas and I left for school in the fall of 2017.
I have been labeled a “Californian refugee” by my peers who maintain a particular distaste for my home state, and I am tempted to agree with them. I suppose this term means that I was driven out of my coastal home by negative experiences, and I was led to settle somewhere much better for me. I found this term insulting at first, as I still felt some ties or obligations towards California. Since then I have learned that I can only life a full, fruitful life if I move on from my past, even while appreciating where I come from.
It took me a while to accept my love for Texas. I felt like a foreigner in a completely different country. There are so many cultural oddities here that I haven’t seen anywhere else and that I wasn’t at all expecting. The first time I went to a large event, the crowd said the pledge of allegiance to the American flag. Afterwards, I was totally befuddled when everyone went straight into a pledge to the Texas flag. The concept of Texas Independence Day was completely foreign to me. I’ve seen hotel waffle makers that pop out Texas-shaped breakfast.
I am told this is all totally normal, but I was certain I was being punk’d for a long time. The culture shock was real and the change was quite abrupt. Something about it intrigued me and I was left feeling somewhat unsure of where I belonged.
I found it refreshing in comparison to the Californian attitude. Way out on the west coast, everything is busy and cramped. There’s tremendous pressure to do every activity available, because God forbid you waste a minute not appreciating that you live in California. There’s a lot to love about California and the variety and beauty it has to offer. However, I never felt like the state’s culture was something I understood or fully appreciated. I love going to the beach, but unlike my peers, I never felt it was a part of my personality. I could never see myself fully accepting the language or the politics that are a part of everyday life there.
Even though I couldn’t identify with the Californian attitude, I still didn’t want to love Texas at first. I told myself that I wouldn’t; I insisted that I would always return home to California. Finally, after a year of resisting, I gave into loving my new state. However, I am stuck between two ideals. I don’t feel like I can ever be a true Texan, as I spent no part of my formative childhood years here, and I feel that no native Texan would take me seriously as one of them. Yet I also don’t feel like a Californian, because that culture never sat quite right with me.
So, I am a refugee. I come from somewhere far away, and I left my home feeling relatively aimless. But I found a new home and a new place to belong. I will never be a native of Texas, and I know I need to accept the exclusion I will inevitably feel for that. I can appreciate where I came from and how much my home has done for me, but there is also tremendous life and opportunity to be found elsewhere.
Image by Samantha Farnsworth.