Where did I come from, and what the hell am I doing here? I live with my parents and sister in the epitome of white, middle class suburbia. All three of them smoke. Though they deny it, they're pretty racist. They drink as much Pepsi as I do coffee and don't consider a meal complete without a decent-sized portion of red meat. They don't believe in turning off the TV-- ever. They each own a car and drive everywhere-- even to visit friends who live around the block in the middle of summer. Neither of my parents went to college and my sister's dropping out of community college after this semester.
Don't get me wrong, they're pretty accepting of my feminism and lesbianism and commie/hippie tendencies, even if they'll never understand any of it. I even got my mom to jump on the organic food train with me (although she says she only did it because I literally refused to eat anything she cooked and lost about ten pounds).
But I just don't understand where I got any of this; they're different from me in every way possible. I want to say that I came to believe what I believe because of outside influence: friends, teachers, whatever. But that's really not the case. I grew up here, in Grosse Pointe, and moved to Saginaw for three years before moving back into my parents' house.
For me, it's always just been a matter of common sense (emphasis on the word always). Maybe all kids are born with this mentality and most outgrow it, but I just didn't? I don't know. But I remember being a little kid and feeling totally floored when I learned that my parents paid a water bill. I didn't understand (and I still don't understand) how anyone could put monetary value on a substance that makes up about 70% of a person's body. And I've applied that mentality to food, too, or anything people need to survive. Like a place to live. Around the age of nine (fearless little thing that I was), I told my friend's dad that I thought it was wrong of him to own a vacation home on Lake Charlevoix, because it was vacant most of the year. What a goddamned waste.
I don't know. I've always surrounded myself with like-minded people, of course. That's what we do. And it's made life bearable-- even enjoyable. But I can't say that I grew up thinking one thing and then went to college and met people who changed my way of looking at the world. Because, as illustrated above, that just didn't happen. I've always felt this way. And then I got to college and was disappointed because I still didn't really feel like I identified with anyone.
I've been kind of angry at myself lately, mainly due to my lack of involvement in things like the Occupy Movement. It's right up my alley and yet I'm utterly absent from it. I justify this to myself by pointing out that I live near Detroit, and Detroit is vastly different from Wall Street, where this protest originated. But that's really no excuse; this isn't the only thing I've (cowardly?) shied away from. There's also some other activism that I'm not as involved in now as I was just a few months ago. And although I'm generally pretty good at following the news and being aware of what's going on, I'm certainly not posting witty commentary on everything the way many of my friends are.
And yet, I know that I've always expected way too much of myself, so I'm trying to look at the whole picture. Given my upbringing and current living situation, I'm pretty strong. I may be taking a million years to get through school, but I haven't quit. And even though I get really effing overwhelmed by the news and my readings for class and the harsh realities of the kind of stuff I'm drawn to, I haven't turned away from it. I can't.
Here are some of the things I've got going for me: I'm more aware of things than I've ever been; if I wasn't, I wouldn't be reading almost compulsively, and working so hard to drag my family into the twenty-first century. I'm on track for a straight-A semester, so I must be doing something right, something productive. I have a job for which I earn money. I get out of bed every single day.
I realize that by writing this, I'm beating myself up for not doing this and that and the other thing, which tells me that I'll be back to it eventually. As Audre Lorde said, "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."
We all do what we need to do.