Its been a total of 9 weeks, with 3 full weeks remaining until I return to Illinois and to the greater midwest vibe that I’ve bathed in for the first 21 years of my life. For the 3-4 months that I’ve been in DC, I’ve seen a lot of interesting social norms at play, and recognized a variety of norms that I wasn’t cognizant of before coming to DC.
Diversity I have seen very little of what I’d consider the more progressive tenants of diversity in my time in Southern Illinois. The traditional expectation of one person of color and/or one woman defining the diversity quotient has always been problematic. However, that narrative is born and bred – this is a statement wholly grounded in my experience – in the lack of diversity I’ve seen in the southern portion of Illinois. In DC, I’ve seen almost every portion of diversity at play. I’ve had the opportunity to meet friends who do great work for this world, and who come from all backgrounds and walks of life. (Just to give you a breakdown, here’s a blog post with some stats on Washington DC.) I’ve seen more than just a few LGBT Persons of Color, and more than just a few LGBT Catholic/Protestant/Jewish persons, and more than a few religious minorities, and more than just a few Latino/a/x persons, and more than just a few immigrants to America. I’ve seen more than Southern Illinois has really had to offer in great supply.
A Different Social Structure I think that most of my time in Southern Illinois felt like building connections and bridges to reach a pretty slim selection of opportunities. You could become a star student and get elected to some positions or rise social hierarchies to some sort of relative fame. While I’m not in school, I don’t feel this necessary pull to the top. On the contrary, I feel a weight lifted from me to be some easy to digest stereotype, or difficult to talk to recluse.
DC isn’t my home, but it is a place that has become a respite for me. I love the community that I’ve found in places like the hostel that I called home for a few weeks and my apartment building drama. I’ve loved the conversations I’ve had with passersby and been thankful for every friend I’ve made along the way. I don’t worry about the midwestern niceness that people have to put on to create connections in Illinois. The energy there, the push to be monochrome, is nonessential in this city. In fact, it seems more important to see a spectrum of people enjoying and reveling in the life they get to live in a city with its own rich culture and traditions.
I’ve enjoyed pride and meeting practicing LGBT Christians and Pastors and Orators. I’ve enjoyed renting bikes and using uber (which you definitely don’t see in Greenville/Metropolis all that often). I’ve enjoyed the nightlife with friends. I’ve enjoyed DC in so many ways, most of which I cannot capture in this little blog post. And yet, as my time runs out in this city, I find myself a bit excited to come back. I hope to bring some of DC back with me, dragging along my positive experiences, personal challenges, and overall excitement into the collegiate arena for a final year of undergraduate schooling.
Thanks, DC. You’re a wonderful home away from home.