This is the first draft of my personal essay for my Intermediate Writing class. I may have cheated and written it to fit a prompt for Real Simple‘s Third-Annual Life Lessons Essay Contest, but whatever. We’re supposed to try to get everything we write in that class published, so we’ll see! I’ll be editing this before I turn in the final draft, but here’s what I’ve got so far.
COMMENTS AND CRITICISMS WELCOMED AND ENCOURAGED!
Despite the fact that I have spent 33 of the last 38 months more than 600 miles away from home, I have been homesick very few times, and I have never cried about it.
My mom, on the other hand, has mourned the fact that spend at least nine months of the year in mid-Missouri, 600 miles away from her in North Texas, quite frequently. She has cried due to my departure at least 17 times since I left for school in August 2007. (I’ve counted.)
I am a fairly independent woman. I like being on my own and doing my own thing, but it was never my intention to leave Texas for school; it just happened. I laugh when I think back to my high school senior year photography class and recall two classmates who just couldn’t wait to get out of this conservative, Christian, crappy state. I smiled quietly and thought, “I don’t mind it. It’s not that bad here. Maybe a little warm, but I can handle it.” I had never expressed the deep pride in the state that many die-hard Texans express, but I liked it well enough. My family and friends were there.
Six months later I was packing for Missouri. The two girls from my class were headed for Austin. I guess if you can’t get out of the state, you can at least find respite in the most liberal city there.
Leaving for school was not scary. It was exhilarating and full of possibilities. I knew I wouldn’t be able to come home on weekends, and to offset out-of-state fees I would be staying in Missouri the summer after freshman year, but I was looking forward to it. For two and a half years I flourished under the Missouri sun.
And then during the spring semester of my junior year of college, I was diagnosed with sudden-onset homesickness.
Because I had decided to spend the summer after my junior year working in Colorado, I decided it might be nice to go home for spring break that year and visit my family. I planned on bringing home two friends who grew up in Chicago and Kansas City, respectively. Neither of them had spent a lot of time in the Lone Star State, so I decided to show them a real Texas time over our week’s vacation. Among other Texan activities, we drove three hours west of my Dallas-suburb hometown in order to visit my uncle, a professor of Texas history in Abilene, and let him show us around his Texas museums.
The result of that weeklong trip in March was this: a Texan education for my two friends and an insatiable desire to return to the homeland as soon as possible for me.
While I had grown accustomed to Missouri’s excruciatingly long winters and learned to adore actual fall foliage that didn’t go from green to icky brown in three days, I craved the Dallas skyline, Chicken Express and giant Texas flags. I wanted to go home.
In a frenzy of Texas homesickness one night in April, I went to Flikr.com, created a slide show of bluebonnets (the state flower that blankets the side of every highway in the state in the late spring) and watched the photos fade into one another to the tune of the Dixie Chicks’ “Cowboy Take me Away” on repeat. This also might have been a ploy to procrastinate whatever humanities paper I was supposed to be writing for school, but the underlying feelings and desires remained.
Fortunately for me, there was a light at the end of the Missouri tunnel. I had just one year of undergrad left, and after that my options were open. I knew I wanted to go to graduate school, so I decided I would probably go in Texas.
In May, I left for the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Co. I was participating in a summer church leadership program known simply as LT (Leadership Training). While I was going with a group of friends from Mizzou, I looked forward to meeting other school groups while I was out there. When I got to the YMCA, I met students from Illinois, Illinois State, Ohio State, Kent State, Michigan State, Bowling Green and Texas A&M.
And the Texas envy flourished.
Though I actually had met quite a few Texans at Mizzou during my first three years of school, they were displaced Texans like me. These Aggies hadn’t left the state yet, and they still had all their Texan quirks intact. They were a community I longed to be a part of.
There is a sense of camaraderie between Texans, regardless of where they meet. Texans love and understand one another. When Texans discover their mutual heritage, they become instant friends. These people, these Aggies, understood me. They understood “No, I’ve never been sledding, thank you very much,” and “Holy crap. It’s July 4th and I’m wearing a sweatshirt.” They understood the Texas University Interscholastic League competitions we all competed in during high school. They understood the gravity of the UT/Texas A&M rivalry. They understood Big Tex and fried everything at the Texas State Fair. They understood “y’all” and “fixing to” and sweet tea and high school 5A football on Friday nights. They knew the Texas pledge of allegiance. They knew that there is a Texas pledge of allegiance. And they loved me despite the fact that I had forsaken my roots for a midwestern education during the past three years.
For the rest of the summer I confused a lot of people by telling them I was from Texas when I was asked where I was from.
“Lindsay, you have to say you’re from Mizzou,” my roommate explained. “People think you go to A&M when you say you’re from Texas.”
“But… I am from Texas,” I argued.
“But you don’t go to A&M.”
Well I might in a year, I thought back defensively.
From that moment on, just to spite my roommate’s advice, I never told people I was from Missouri. I was from Texas, dangit. I bonded with the Aggies and learned to “whoop” when I got excited for something, as Aggies are wont to do. Every day I proudly wore my Texas necklace I had been given for Christmas a few years back as a conversation starter for any new person I might meet that day.
At one point during the summer, I found myself wearing that necklace, a shirt emblazoned with the familiar Texas-shape and a sweatshirt from the state’s high school music conference, which also bore the state’s silhouette. Three Texan outlines on one body. I was beyond hope.
I never thought I’d be one of those Texans. You know the ones, the stereotypical ones: big belt buckles, cowboys boots, a lifetime subscription to Texas Monthly, defending the state’s honor, spouting off facts like, “Did you know that Six Flags is called Six Flags because the original theme park is in Texas, in my hometown, actually, and there were six flags over Texas? Spain, France, Mexico, the US, the Confederacy and the Republic of Texas. Yeah, that’s right. We were our own country!”
But there I was, having been adopted by a group of college kids from College Station, Texas, looking down at my necklace, T-shirt and sweatshirt, in the middle of Colorado. My transformation was complete. My heart was now beating to the tune of “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” I had to admit that I was one of those Texans.
I have since decided to pursue my Master’s degree in Student Affairs Administration at Texas A&M University. Though I keep telling people I “don’t want to get my hopes up,” my hopes are already up. And they aren’t coming down anytime soon. And just because I’ve never cried about missing home doesn’t mean I won’t cry if this doesn’t work out. It may have taken me three years in Missouri and a summer in Colorado to realize it, but I have seen the Promised Land, and it is Texas. I am one of those Texans, and my home is calling me back.