Editor’s Note: Views expressed in guest columns and letters to the editor reflect the views of the author, not the views of The State News.
Somewhere between seeking directions in the parking lot of a backwoods strip club and maneuvering around the Christmas tree in the main intersection of town, I wondered if I made the stupidest decision of my life.
I’d just driven down to Natchez, Miss., from East Lansing, with a brief 4-hour nap at a Super 8 outside of Springfield, Ill., to start a job at a community newspaper.
Following my orientation at the office, I went to my friend’s apartment where, after driving for about 12 hours straight, I couldn’t figure out how to open the front door.
I sat on her porch step waiting for her to come home, head in hands, with a giant green suitcase filled with my life next to me.
It was dark, no one was out and it was the most isolating feeling in the world. I had just uprooted my entire life to a place where the people talked funny and ate things like crayfish.
While “normal” people went home for winter break to celebrate the holidays with their family, I decided to move to Mississippi for a brief, month-long internship, writing and photographing for a small-town newspaper.
Now, when I say small town, I mean Southern, small town. The kind of place where everyone’s a familiar face and they use words such as “y’all” and “fixin’” and ask you “how is your day going” as you pass them on the street.
And as I sat on my friend’s porch, everyone’s words, doubts and nagging rang in my head.
“You’re not spending Christmas with your family?”
“It’s a tad unorthodox to take a trip like that on your own.”
“Normal daughters would come home.”
“You’re going by yourself? … You’re such a loner.”
Well, I guess I’m not normal. As one person described it, I’m cut from a different cloth. But no matter what, at least I’m me.
Now, let’s get one thing straight. This is not the cliché “be yourself and everything will be fine” column. Life’s not always going to be okay, nor will it always be bad. People will like you or hate you or at least find you mildly amusing.
I enjoyed my time in Mississippi, being immersed in something I didn’t understand and just exploring.
There’s so much in this world that’s so beautiful, and we take all the little things for granted.
I loved how the roads were red and the grand Antebellum homes still intact and the long drawn out drawls askin’, “How y’all doin’ today?”
I loved the personalities. The former postmaster in Vidalia who told me postal work “runs in the blood, baby child,” and the elderly woman at Auburn plantation who called herself Scarlett “cause I’m a hussy, honey.” And I loved the fact gas was $3.09 a gallon.
My trip was about taking a chance, and not being afraid to go after something I wanted.
While I’m happy with this decision and would make it again, it did cause a lot heartache and a lot of arguments with the people I love.
But there’s no room in life for regrets, and I most certainly do not regret this. They don’t deserve your time or your energy because each moment deserves to be cherished.
We waste so much of our time worrying about how other people think and feel about our decisions. Why? They don’t make the decisions for us. They don’t live with the consequences— good or bad.
There are things in life you’ll be judged for, whether it’s a new haircut, or those hideous new shoes you bought, or your career or who you choose to spend your life with. Nobody but you lives with those decisions, and you deserve to be happy with them.
I wish I could come back from Mississippi with some grandiose and glamorous tale of how I found myself on the open road, but the truth is I already knew who I was.
I know who I am.
I just came back with a few good dinner party stories and a great recipe for shrimp creole.
What I realized in Mississippi was not everyone is going to accept you for who you are, and you can either cave and live in a shell of a life or shatter what’s expected of you and thrive on your own terms.
So, y’all go on and be fixin’ to make your own path, because ain’t nobody else gonna do it for ya.
Julia Nagy is a guest columnist at The State News and a journalism sophomore. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.