When I tell people in California that I am from Iowa, most people have a tendency to believe I come from a farm with a family who only believes in guns, God and America. What I have to explain is that I am from Des Moines, a bigger city than Santa Barbara and a county that has consistently voted democrat since before I was born. I’m also lucky enough to have grown up in a very politically informed and active state with the Iowa caucuses being one of the leading political events during election years. That being said, I didn’t develop a strong interest in politics until after I had already moved to California. My parents were never too concerned with elections and didn’t really speak to me about them (other than my mom’s admiration for Hillary Clinton, which has since dwindled). They also were kind enough to allow me to choose what to believe spiritually. We didn’t go to church or read the Bible. My mom would mention God in passing but never try to sway my beliefs. I cannot express how grateful I am for this. I went to church frequently with my childhood friend whose parents were still together, (mine had divorced when I was a baby) Evangelical, and homeschooled her until high school. It was great being able to draw parallels even as a child between our two situations and be able to have a home to go to where I could have open discussions about spirituality without having to worry about being judged or upset someone. I believe it helped me keep a level head in discussions and gave me the ability to see both sides of most debates. I am not religious now nor do I believe in God at all, but my boyfriend grew up a Jehovah’s Witness and although he left the church a few years ago, (and is still being shunned for it) he is still heavily spiritual. In a way, religion has greatly shaped my life but being able to choose whether I even want to practice religion has shaped it even more.
Another agent that has shaped my identity is school. I learned a lot about myself through examining how I react towards a formal educational environment. I was in honors and AP classes throughout high school and did poorly in them due mostly to lack of motivation. I felt an enormous amount of pressure to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life which I handled by rebelling against it. I changed my career path about six times through high school, and not one of them involved politics. I was bored both at home and in class. I tested highly but received consistent C’s in classes, much to my parents’ dismay. I took two years off before returning to school and attending Santa Barbara City College, where I realized that studying Political Science seemed to me to be a combination of history and psychology, my two favorite subjects but neither of which I wanted to major in. Once I took my first class I immediately realized I had found something I could study, read about and become excited over for longer than a few weeks. In my eyes college has been so much more stimulating, academic and insightful than high school ever was and I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to attend.
As a child, my mom took me to many different places around America on various vacations. I blame her for my travel itch. I get restless if I’m stuck in one place for too long, and if I can’t just pick up and move then I need at least a few days somewhere unfamiliar to escape and wind down. Even Santa Barbara is causing me to become a bit clausterphobic. I don’t like running into people I know on the streets, or being able know where everything is in town without needing directions.
Between traveling, school, and my family and friends I have managed to develop my own personal identity that I am actually pretty proud of. I still have quite a bit of learning to do about myself but I believe I have made a good start and cannot wait to see what the future holds.