[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ocation, location, location: the fateful factor that simultaneously shaped my high school experience and steered me toward selecting a completely contrasting environment for college. For some, where they exist is simply an inherent fact. For others, choosing a place to call home is a turning point decision that often takes much deliberation to reach. Either way, it is the primary element that sets the stage for one’s existence.
Naturally, the locations that people are drawn to tend to reflect the things that they prioritize – components ranging from job opportunities to cultural diversity. For myself, it was the latter that greatly appealed to me. As a person who highly values attributes like individuality and open-mindedness, I always knew that I would feel most at home in an urban environment. While my confidence in knowing where I wanted to end up was comforting, the setting that I yearned for couldn’t have been more conflicting to the one I had spent the past five years in. Namely, a small college town in southwestern Virginia called Lynchburg.
Although Lynchburg most certainly abides by the generic catalog of small town clichés, the college seated at the heart of the city creates an overlying aura that refuses to go by any book except the Bible. Liberty University, which boasts the titles of largest private university in the nation and largest Christian university in the world, is arguably what keeps the gears turning in the town of Lynchburg. Consequently, a significant portion of Lynchburg’s residents are where they are solely because of LU.
I constantly felt like an outsider to a club that I didn’t even want in on.
While the scene that Liberty sets may be optimal for its students or any other adherents to the lowkey cult that is Southern Baptism, it couldn’t have been any worse of a match for me. Whether I was witnessing my senior year government class (in which I was the only democrat) collectively bash and threaten LGBTQ+ individuals, or watching LU’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., endorse Donald Trump or lobby to “end those Muslims” via concealed-carry weapons, I constantly felt like an outsider to a club that I didn’t even want in on. I felt trapped in a town that wasn’t so much trailing behind as it was standing stagnant, while I silently craved a venue that would never settle into one lone framework of problematic properties.
Thankfully, by the point that this heaven-bound town had become my full-blown personal hell, the time for college and all of the independence that came along with it wasn’t too far off. Long story short, I was accepted into the in-state college of my dreams, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the long-awaited alterations that my life has undergone since my first day of class there have made my strenuous time in Lynchburg well worth it. As one could probably guess, VCU’s location is the epicenter to a fusion of lifestyles – Richmond, Virginia (the state’s capital).
The four months I’ve spent in Richmond so far have been the best few months of my life. College aside, I’ve truly never felt more refreshed or free to be myself. Despite high school teaching me to be the queen of BS, I find myself having more genuine and meaningful interactions with my peers than ever. I can walk down most streets holding my girlfriend’s hand without a second thought (an act that would have undoubtedly led to harassment or even assault back in Lynchburg). Though I don’t by any means agree with the views or opinions of everyone I come into contact with, there seems to be a mutual agreement amongst Richmond’s residents that prompts us all to accept and respect one another.
Because of these experiences, I’ve subconsciously and consciously begun to refer to Richmond as my home. That doesn’t mean I’ll dwell there forever, but for now, it’s a place that I’m content with retreating to at the end of each day. While a handful of Lynchburg’s citizens are some of my favorite people on this planet (my family included), I know that, for me, it will always be more of a pit stop than a final destination.
Whether you were born into the city you were meant to reside in or you’re still on the hunt for a house that feels like home, I can promise that there is a corner of the world meant just for you. Sometimes the road that leads to it is just a little bumpy.