This I Believe

Michelle - Charlotte, North Carolina
Entered on November 5, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: tolerance
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My freshman year in high school was far more difficult than what I had expected. I had just moved from San Diego, CA to Savannah, GA two days before my first day at the Savannah Arts Academy. Naturally, it was rough; not only was I the new kid in town, I was also two weeks late to school because of a Ballet Intensive, so cliques had already been formed. I knew life in the South would be different than life on the West coast, especially coming from San Diego, but I had no idea exactly how different.

Everyone I met within the first few days in Savannah asked me, “You’re not from here, are you?” as if I had a stamp across my forehead that said, “I’m from California.” Slowly but surely, I found my niche with a group of Visual Art and Orchestra majors, like myself. As the days passed, we got into discussions about life in the South compared to the West. At first, we were able to joke about differences between the two and the stereotypes that went along with them. Needless to say, the joking didn’t last very long.

I was coming from a big city public education from a school with over 2,000 students, and an open-minded community into a small city, private school education with less than 500 students and mostly close-minded community. The differences on how people thought here in the South baffled me. From views on religious beliefs to what people were wearing, if it wasn’t “normal” to them, it was either wrong or weird. In California, if something wasn’t “normal,” we just shrugged it off; there were too many different kinds of people in California to be constantly judging them. When I would get into debates with my friends in Savannah, they would always refute to “Oh but what you think doesn’t count, you’re from California” or “Yeah, but you’re different,” and that would be the end of the conversation.

Going on my fifth year of living in the South, I’ve become accustomed to close-minded comments and reactions that come from the community as well as the stereotyping. I believe that stereotyping and judging people is a waste of time. Growing up, I was taught that everyone is different: looks, beliefs, religions, ethnicities and upbringings. Being Filipino and Italian, there’s not much room for stereotypes and judging, not to mention the countless other ethnicities, religions, and beliefs in my family. My mother always told me that time doesn’t grow on trees; there are not countless amounts of it just lying around, and you can’t go back to change things. Because of this, I’ve been taught not to dwell on things that aren’t worth my valuable time and energy, like stereotyping and judging.

I’ve managed to get through to my close friends and open up their minds and ways of thinking, but I still have a lot of work ahead of me. Not only is stereotyping and judging a waste of time, but it can hurt feelings as well, something else I look at as a waste of time. Daily, I make progress in my own personal goal: opening people’s minds to spend time on things worthwhile.