My Southern Love Affair

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Some people might picture a land of uneducated, cousin-courting hillbillies making moonshine in their forested backyards while “fixin’ to” scrounge up some grits or give a’hollerin’ to their Uncle Bubba, but they’ve obviously never seen it my way. It amazes me that anyone can be so stuck in their ways that they reject difference. Upon announcing my college plans, I received mixed reviews – elated friends who showered me with congratulations, and the peers and adults who stared at me with a shocked disgust and simply asked, “Why Tennessee?”

Between the sweet tea, extra syllables thrown into practically every word, the existence of manners, and the horse-infested green land, I admit to my love affair with the South. And what I love about it seems to throw the rest of the world (or at least the people I know) into a shock, as if not wanting to stay in good ol’ Cali was the result of some mental disease. I can see it now:


Me: Oh, I’m going to college in Tennessee.
Person: (gives a nervous smile) Oh, that’s great. (And then in a whisper): Kids, stay away from the crazy girl!



Don’t get me wrong, always having something to do, year-round sunshine, nearby beaches and mountains, and the lack of freezing temperatures make California a lovely place. But it isn’t for me.

Ever since the summer my mom introduced our family to Savannah, Georgia, and my dad took me on a college visit to the University of Tennessee, I was hooked. My heart sung a chorus of Hallelujah! I was home. To me, the Southerners live. They aren’t afraid of their deep-fried, sugar-coma-inducing foods, or their Confederate past and telling the “true story of the Civil War” to about every outsider who’s at least slightly conservative. And while maybe they are stuck in their ways and traditions, they haven’t moved away from what they believe in, and they haven’t rejected their past to become something they’re not. The South hasn’t blindingly advanced toward the fast life the world seems to bend to.

It captivates me because the people don’t seem afraid to love, to acknowledge, to take chances, to appreciate. Things are slower, but that’s how I like them. There’s something magical about the Smokey Mountains of the Appalachians, the mossy trees of the Deep South, and the humid summer nights sprinkled with fireflies that leave you in a dream-like heaviness (contradictory, I know). I bathe in the tantalizingly polite use of “ma’am” to even someone as young as myself. I admit it gives me butterflies. It seems as if the very earth breathes slower there, sees life more clearly, and the people absorb this vibe.

After living in fast-moving Southern California, it’s time for a change. I feel I could learn something from the South, from the land and the language, the people and the seasons. Out there, people actually say “thank you”, smile at each other, act like complete strangers are their long-lost friends, all while line-dancin’ to some true Honky-Tonk country music. Out there, it’s not about who has the most money, or the best clothes, or the nicest car. It’s more common to compete for the title of Best Barbeque, and drive around an old Ford that’s the same color as a rusty sky.

So when I told my friends I was going to a small university in Nashville, they were excited because they knew my passion. They’ve heard my unnatural, unstoppable random Southern accent. As for those people who are too stuck in their fast life to embrace a change or even a change of pace, I answer their sneering question of “Why Tennessee?” with a soul-filled “Because I love it.” It’s as simple as that.





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