Places I have lived, in chronological order:
- Lower Brule/Chamberlain, South Dakota (birth place)
- Rapid City, South Dakota (foster care [0-3mo])
- Spearfish, South Dakota (3mo-19)
- Chapel Hill, North Carolina (19-23)
- Pierre, South Dakota (23-24)
- Norman, Oklahoma (24-26)
- Pierre, South Dakota (26-?)
To quote Disney’s Hercules:
And a voice keeps saying
This is where I’m meant to be
I will find my way
I can go the distance
I’ll be there someday
If I can be strong
I know every mile
Will be worth my while
I would go most anywhere
To find where I belong
That’s not to say I don’t feel like I belong. Well…actually…it kind of is.
Let me start from the beginning:
By middle school, I had already decided that I wanted to leave South Dakota for college. I wanted nothing more than to find a place where there would be other people who looked like me. People who would understand how exhausting life can be when you cannot blend in with dominant society. What I didn’t realize was that part of the reason I was so exhausted was because I could not even get a break at home.
In 8th grade, I had my dream school picked out. I could tell you the rankings of the programs I was interested and the cost of tuition. However, none of that was as important to me as the demographic makeup of the campus.
I am pleased to say that I fulfilled the dream of 14-year-old Molly and completed my undergraduate work at the University of North Carolina. I enjoyed every minute of it. I cannot even begin to describe how it felt to finally be surrounded by other brown people. Prior to college, I never found myself in a situation where I could adjust my dial, not even at home. Part of the joy of being transracially adopted.
In college I found my niche and my campus family. Most importantly, I was finally able to explore my identity as a multiracial woman. Towards my senior year, I started to miss home. I missed the comfort of the routine of small town South Dakota. I moved back to the state for a year to work at the tribal college in Lower Brule, the reservation where my family in enrolled, while living off-reservation in Pierre. After less than a year, the moving bug bit me again and I took the opportunity to leave for graduate school.
I enrolled at the University of Oklahoma for a number of reasons. 1) They offered the program I wanted and did not require the GRE for admission. 2) I had never lived in that region of the country, and if I was going to go through the work of moving it was going to be somewhere new. 3) I have a very dear friend that lives in the OKC area, so I wouldn’t be totally alone. By the end of my first year, I knew that Oklahoma was not somewhere I wanted to be long term. Thankfully, a master’s program is only two year.
Side note: I live by the motto that you can live almost anywhere for at least 2 years. You’d be surprised how quickly it flies by.
Following graduation, I moved back to South Dakota. I am once again living in Pierre, where I have been for almost 3 months now.
Since May of 2011, I have lived in 3 time zones in 3 different states.
My experiences have helped to mold me into the woman I am today. I needed those years in North Carolina to learn how to be a minority. I needed my time in Oklahoma to continue to grow as an adult, and to truly begin to wrestle with my identity as a multiracial woman. South Dakota is home. I was born and raised here. However, I still do not feel like this is where I belong long term.
Once again, I am back in a situation in which my dial is more of an on/off switch than the dial on a dimmer light.
At this moment, in this time, I know this is where I am supposed to be. I love my job. The work that I am doing is something very near and dear to my heart. I am close to home and have the ability to jet to Spearfish or Rochester (where my dad is receiving his cancer treatment) at the drop of a hat should my parents need me.
However, after less than 3 months, I am already tired of dealing with majority society without having the opportunity to decompress or vent with anybody that would understand. I live in a town where most of the people have never lived outside of the borders of South Dakota. This state is all they know.
My other life motto: Everybody should live outside of their home state for at least 2 years. (See how my life mottos connect?) If nothing else, moving away will show you how much you love and appreciate where you grew up and give you incentive to move back. That’s awesome. At least you have been exposed to a different culture/worldview. I understand that regionally, the Great Plains is pretty dang homogenous when it comes to worldviews, but the little nuances and small details that make the Dakotas different from each other is more than enough for some people.
I never know how long I will stay somewhere or where I am headed next, but I can tell you with certainty that there will be a few more moves in my lifetime.
Get out there and try the world! If not the world, a different state or a different time zone (which in SD can be accomplished by moving across the river, but that’s not the point). If I had my way and money wasn’t an issue, all college students would be required to study abroad with certain exemptions for out-of-state students already far from home because let’s be honest, the US could easily be divided up into smaller countries simply based on regional differences.
Since I don’t have that power, all I can do is strongly suggest that you move away at least once. Do it!
Perhaps it will help you find that voice that says, “This is where I’m meant to be.”