Go forth and find your true self

Lauren - Waynesboro, Virginia
Entered on March 1, 2009

It is my belief that you have to go away to find your true self. I was born in Augusta County. For eighteen years, I lived in Augusta County. Never once in those eighteen years, did I see homeless people, and never once in those eighteen years was I ever the minority in any given setting. When I set off for Virginia Commonwealth University after graduation, all of these things drastically changed. I had no idea what kind of a surprise I was in for.

In high school, I always had the same mundane concerns. These consisted of what to wear, where to go on the weekends, what I needed to study for, and how many points I hoped I would score in my basketball game. I was a caring person, but I had never seen anything in my life that made me want to make a difference in someone else’s. Then I moved to Richmond, VA.

I lived in Richmond for about three years, and the last year there, I worked at a grassroots campaign, registering voters for Barack Obama. One day I got sent out to a very bad neighborhood. It was actually a housing project. I was terrified. I remember thinking all these crazy things like I was going to see drugs or that I might get shot or raped, but I went anyways. Call me brave or stupid, I felt like I had a job to do, and since most of this community did not have reliable transportation to go register, I felt like I might be their last chance to fill out their paperwork.

Many of the people in this community were felons and could not vote, so I ended up talking to them about how to restore their rights or about other concerns that they had. I also found myself talking to the rest of the community longer than I normally would. I found myself genuinely wanting to know these people’s concerns about the economy, our school systems, and the War in Iraq. Most days I was mainly concerned with meeting my quota for the day, but this day I found myself really listening to these people.

I started to realize that even though I had been raised in such a different place and I looked different from these people, we had a lot of the same concerns. This community opened up my eyes to how good my life really is. It also taught me that when you go out of your comfort zone, you will definitely learn something new. After this experience, I found myself starting to care more about world issues, and I tended not to prejudge people as much as I had before. Richmond taught me a lot about life and how to treat people, and I am a smarter and more mature person for having lived and worked there.