Thursday, December 24, 2009

East of My Eden

I’m packing up my apartment in preparation for my flight back to what my long time friends affectionately call the “Better coast.” As a writer, I can’t not take this time to reflect on the past two and a half years I spent at an East coast graduate institution. Anyone who follows my blog knows that I live in the liminal space between clear definitions, and now that I have lived in New England, my bi-coastal existence is no exception. People often ask me what the major differences are between the two coasts. After repeatedly wracking my brain, the only thing I can come up with is that the East coast is where our traditional history comes from, and is the landscape upon which children’s books are based. It’s been surreal to me to live in a place that has housed Emily Dickenson, Noah Webster, and many other historical figures that I am too lazy to remember at the moment. L.A. may be the place of movies and reality TV, Manhattan may be the Big Apple, but New England houses our history in the day to day, nitty gritty sense. It’s the birthplace or Mecca of many of our historical politicians, poets, writers, and cultural icons. And when we open Peter Rabbit, Little Women, and (if we include Canada) Anne of Green Gables, the East coast reflects the landscape of such classic stories. When you move to the East coast you learn that the town of Mystic, which brought us Julia Roberts’ debut role, is in fact a real place and that yes, Boston is just as obsessed with the Red Sox as is portrayed, and that L.L. Bean backpacks with embroidered initials--and black North Face fleeces--are worn by everyone and no one thinks it’s funny.
The differences and similarities between the two coasts are not my intended focus of this blog entry, however. Rather, it is what my time in the East coast has given me. Though I have only spent two and a half years here, I am leaving a somewhat different person that the girl who arrived. First of all, at the age of 33 I no longer see myself as a “girl.” This comes mainly from the experience of having taught actual girls (and boys), and of being given the power to give them As or Fs at my discretion. It’s knowing that I have changed lives for the better through helping students realize the liminal spaces in which they live, and to question the standard assumption that everything occurs in black and white. Just as life-changing, the East coast has given me my first ever set of black and biracial friends who will never know just how big of a void they filled. I see myself reflected back through them, in both a literal and metaphorical sense. Not only do we share similar skin tones and similar hair, but I now don’t question myself when I see things through race-conscious eyes and when I get upset about race issues that don’t seem to bother my (though wonderful) white friends and family. Lastly, for those of you who know me well, I am returning to the “Better coast” with the ability to take my life and my relationships to the next level. In numerous ways the East coast has “fixed me,” and for that I am eternally grateful. 

--Shannon Luders-Manuel

No comments:

Post a Comment