This week (finally) marks the beginning of returning students migrating to campus. No matter how we spent our summers — at home, abroad, working or in D.C. — we all now come back to the place we share, understand and know.
Regardless of how a summer is spent, I found that it can be a very restorative, eye-opening and formative period. During previous summers growing up, the days would be long and full: ice cream cones, swimming, time spent with friends — three months with no obligations or deadlines. Summer was perfect, and we always hated to see it end.
This past summer still had all of those great qualities, but also a new threatening haze. Time spent with friends — now old friends — had a distinct new atmosphere, one that suggested that shared experiences and commonalities that once brought you together were fading. I found life back at home to be subpar compared to my life at college. I looked at my hometown in a different way. In college, we are thrust into the world of adulthood, but at home, we are expected to be back before curfew. This was confusing to experience, and constantly reminded me that this “adulthood” is more of an awkward transition phase in between being a kid and an adult.
In a lot of ways, I spent much of the summer exploring stereotypes. I investigated general preconceived notions about the South and also my own, stemming from the new insight I gained by living in D.C. My experiences were enlightening as I worked as a nanny, dressed up for the debutante ball, tried out Tinder, learned more about John F. Kennedy and researched Southern hospitality.
But what I really learned this summer was greater than all of those purely Dallas-related experiences. This summer was about perspectives, the most important one being that people are more than the places in which they live. Not only in Dallas, but everywhere. It is true that groups of people can be classified in a certain way and be given a certain label. It is true that those labels and classifications can be accurate. However, choosing whether or not to adhere to stereotypes is your own personal battle, no matter where you live.
Though I’m a transplant to the South, and many will argue that Dallas isn’t even really Southern, I often regard where I live with disappointment towards the glaring Southern characteristics. I don’t love that Texas views the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. I don’t love that Texas will fight endlessly against gun control. I don’t love that every summer day is scalding hot. But as I recently drove home after a long road trip and saw the Dallas skyline grow closer, I felt a surge of pride and sinking comfort. I realized, with only three days left at home, that I’d miss it. I’ll miss delicious breakfast tacos, quirky Texan art, constantly sunny days, kind people, freshly brewed iced tea and more.
Amidst all the good and bad, Dallas is still home.
Caitlin Karna is a rising sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. This is the final appearance of The Southern Drawl.
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