In my “Paris and Berlin in the 1920s” class, we are currently learning about the alienation some American soldiers felt after returning home from WWI. As my professor pointed out, these soldiers had seen Europe– the excitement and progressiveness of the cities, countries, etc. Returning to small towns in America, these soldiers felt disconnected from their past home. Their new experiences had shaped them, changed them, and had caused them to grow in new directions. They no longer felt a sense of inclusion and community in their past loved towns.
Despite the obvious fact that I wasn’t a soldier during WWI, and I don’t live in the 1920s, I really identified with these soldiers. My freshman year of college really changed me. I dreaded returning back to my hometown for breaks and visits. I felt disconnected, estranged, and alienated in the streets I once ran havoc upon. My hometown was not diverse; furthermore, it did not encourage, or accept diversity in any sense. Bloomington had cultured me; I had glowed in the diversity campus held. Not only was I surrounded by different cultures and ethnicities, I was also exposed to different political and religious ideas, different styles, and different expressions of gender and sexuality. In Bloomington, I felt free. I felt that I could finally be myself, embrace the counter culture inside of me, and be happy.
Our last U495 class made me think a great deal about diversity, and the elements that make an individual unique. Diversity is not a two dimensional world– rather, it takes on many forms, shapes, etc. Diversity is not just the color of your skin, or the religion you identify with– diversity is fluid.
This got me thinking back to over a year ago, during my own Orientation Leader interview. I remember being asked the question “What makes you diverse?” and totally spacing. I don’t remember the answer I gave, but I do remember thinking about that question as I walked home afterwards. I thought, and thought about this. Was I unique? My biggest fear in life is being a generic person. (I try to compensate for this by having a big personality. For example, in high school I died my hair blue because being blonde started feeling too normal.) The thought of being regular seemed horrible.
A year later, I now feel a lot more confident in myself, and my unique identity. Part of it I attribute to working with Orientation, and part of it I attribute to college in general. I believe that self-esteem is manipulated by your environment. When you are in a positive environment, where you are encouraged to be yourself, your identity can finally blossom, and thrive. I think the IU Bloomington community helped me blossom, and realize that I could be my true, diverse self. I also think the positive environment created for the Orientation Team last summer helped me grow as well. I really felt I could be myself, and still represent the University and the FYE office. (I really hope I can create a similar environment this summer, one that will benefit our current Orientation Team.)
I like the idea of secrets. I like the idea of being mysterious, quite a bit actually. After all, I did read all the Nancy Drew books. I went through a extensive Law and Order phase too. And, I am, a Criminal Justice major. I think I like secrets so much, because I enjoy uncovering hidden aspects of people. So, I was extremely excited for the post-secret activity. I couldn’t wait to learn more about my co-workers, and anonymously gain access to these hidden aspects.
As I expected, I really loved the video. It really touched me; I feel a lot closer to our team now, and I value each secret that was shared. I felt connected to the team for multiple reasons. Some of the secrets shared, I can deeply identify with. I found myself tearing up at times even (to be fair, I #MoodAlert-ed everyone on Twitter that i was feeling emotional).
I really like both literal and metaphorical journeys. Coincidentally, I experienced both last week. Last Thursday, I made a literal journey to Louisville, Kentucky. I had a noon appointment to get my fingerprints taken for my American citizenship (I was born in Canada, and am a Canadian citizenship). My literal journey only took about 45 minutes; however, it was pretty crazy, involving bad punk rock music and almost dying by turning the wrong way down a one way street. But anyway, I finally made it to downtown Louisville, and found a parking spot I didn’t have to parallel park for (let’s be honest; can you parallel park?? I can’t).
As I walked up the stairs to the giant courthouse, I was surprised at how emotionally overwhelmed I felt. When did I become an adult? Here I was, in a strange city, by myself– at a courthouse for that matter, about to be fingerprinted…one step closer to being an American citizen, who can vote. When did I become this independent? My parents weren’t there to represent me, to answer the questions, to get my life in order. It was just me, representing myself.
Although I don’t know exactly when this metaphorical journey to adulthood started, I do know that last week was a milestone.