Thursday, January 5, 2023

Being a Conflicted Southerner.


I heard Tom Petty's 'Southern Accents' on the radio today for the first time in what must be decades. It's always stirred a strange feeling in me. To be perfectly honest, it makes me reflect upon a topic that's very personal. I've never discussed this openly before.

I've always been very conflicted about being a Southerner. There have been times in my life where I was ashamed of being from the South. I thought I was too good for the culture, to put it bluntly. At other times of my life, I've wanted to be more Southern, but knew I just didn't fit in with the other country boys. I was a spare tire in the bed of their proverbial truck.

I've never been one for driving four wheelers and getting dirty; for going to country and western bars or being altogether rebellious. I can't understand the thrill of riding a horse. I'm too afraid to drive a motorcycle and I'm not a very good fisherman. You wouldn't catch me dead picking tobacco and I don't like southern summers. Being outside isn't something I like most days, as I'd rather be playing a game or reading a book inside. I suck at camping. I don't talk to the big man upstairs very often because I'm not sure anyone is listening... and if they are, I'm not sure they care.

I'm about about as un-Southern as someone could be. And yet, here I am wearing this mask of a culture I'm not really a part of. I can't take it off.

Sometimes I'm embarrassed by my Southern Virginia / Carolina accent. I don't pronounce words that rhyme with 'oil' correctly. My cadence is slow and paced with my breathing. When I get the slightest bit frustrated, my voice gets louder and the accent becomes bolder. I'm not very proud of how I sound. That's probably why I prefer to write and stay silent.

And yet, I'm proud of where my family and ancestors come from. They're hard working people that went through a lot with very little to show for it. Whether from the Carolinas, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, or Tennessee... they all lived hard, sincere lives that exemplify what the highest ideal of being a Southerner represents. Southerners are genuine, caring, and loyal to a fault. They'll feed a stranger and always know how to make friends.

I'm not sure if there's a point to all this, but being Southern isn't something I've ever done very well. I just hope my ancestors wouldn't be disappointed in me.