When compared to the citizens of the other 50 states in the union, Texans might display the most pride for their homeland. Phrases like, “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” prove that point. But even though I was born and raised within its borders, I never felt much pride for my home state for most of my life. I actually spent most of it planning to move elsewhere.
Many people would compliment Texas for its year-round nice and clear weather. I just bemoaned the increasingly stifling summers that seemed to last much, much too long. Cowboy boots are common attire for an evening out or to complete a cute outfit. I’ve always found them stiff and uncomfortable. Some say that the Texas drawl is charming. I never had an accent, but throughout high school, I purposely removed “y’all” from my natural vocabulary. All the better to fit in once I moved to my hypothetical new home outside of Texas.
It wasn’t that I hated being a Texan. I definitely didn’t. But I never really loved it either. At best, I was indifferent.
It wasn’t that I hated being a Texan. I definitely didn’t. But I never really loved it either. At best, I was indifferent. Having people constantly brag about the greatness of Texas just irritated me. The more I heard about it, the more I wanted to leave. It might be better than some states, but it could be argued that it was also worse than others. Texas was just where I happened to be. I didn’t choose it. So why should I be proud of that?
Ironically, I never felt remotely proud of my Texan heritage until I spent a few months away. The summer I turned 21 years old was the summer I finally figured out why Texans were so proud.
When I left for my internship in Washington, D.C., I wasn’t really anxious to introduce myself to other students in my program. In case you didn’t know, Texas carries a little bit of a bad rep. As a part of the South, it is often looked down upon by other states. Some of the criticism was warranted, but some was not. I was not anxious to tell someone my origins only to see judgement pass over their face. Just because I was from Texas didn’t mean I fit the stereotypes. The last thing I wanted to deal with was explaining that I didn’t ride a horse to school, or that I had never even held a gun, let alone fired one.
The last thing I wanted to deal with was explaining that I didn’t ride a horse to school, or that I had never even held a gun, let alone fired one.
But that never happened. No one I met — no matter their home state — ever appeared to judge me for being from Texas. It was just a small fact about me. It was probably not even surprising in a big city filled with people from all over the country. Texas held the second largest population next to California, after all. My anxiety was completely irrational.
For the most part, I spent the summer being my usual self. I studied, I wrote and I explored the nation’s capitol. I even made a few new friends. But none of this is what made me start to fall in love with my home state. What started it was the homesickness.
As I learned and expanded my horizons, I began to notice all of the little things that were different. Most notably was the heat. Washington had hot summers like Texas, but it wasn’t quite the same. Texas had some humidity. Washington had a lot of humidity. Unlike Texas, you could stand in the shade all you wanted, but it wouldn’t cool you down a bit. Having people comment that I should be used to hot summers didn’t help either. It only made me long for the Texas summers I had hated all my life.
I also missed the subtle Southern charm. Even in a big busy city like Dallas, doors were graciously held open for others. Smiles were happily shared between strangers. I even missed people addressing me as “ma’am” — despite the fact that it always made me feel much older than I was. Now, everyone in Washington wasn’t incredibly rude. They just didn’t have the same habits and mannerisms I was used to.
It wasn’t special because it was Texas. It was special because it was home.
Over my three months in Washington, these slight differences began to wear on me. There wasn’t any culture shock. Homesickness doesn’t take you suddenly. It builds silently in the back of your mind until it slowly overcomes the rest of your thoughts.
Turns out, it wasn’t that I didn’t care about Texas. It was just hard to proclaim something as the best without having anything for comparison. It wasn’t special because it was Texas. It was special because it was home. I didn’t choose it, but it is my home too. Bluebonnets, fried food, cowboy hats and all. And y’all can bet that I’ll never let you mess with Texas.