We’re Not in Michigan Anymore, Toto

Well hello.  Welcome to Wednesday.  While I am face-deep in trying to get back to the job of being a teacher, it’s Sluiter Nation Recruit time here.  Don’t know what a Recruit is?  Start here.

Today’s Recruit is Melissa who writes A Wide Line.  Melissa is  fairly new to me as a blogger, but I read her words more than I think she knows (yeah, that’s right, Melissa.  I have been known to sneak over there).  She is sort of a hidden gem.  I don’t think enough people realized that she is really quite good at this whole writing thing.

Plus she is from America’s High Five, Michigan.  Boom.

Michiganders unite!

Here’s Melissa!

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I’m honored to be a Sluiter Nation recruit and hanging out in Kate’s neck of the woods today. When she suggested I write about “belonging to something or being a part of something,” I knew right away what I would tell you about….

 Too Michigan for California. Too California for Michigan.

I moved from the Great Lakes State to the Golden State in 1999. Why? The same reason any 20-year-old girl packs up her whole life, transfers schools and migrates across the country. For a boy. A stupid, stupid boy. But that’s another post for another time. (Hmmm, or not…)

I transferred to Santa Clara University at the start of my junior year, and I didn’t know anyone. In college back in Michigan, I had lived on the same floor as my best friends. Many nights were spent laughing hysterically in one of our rooms. I took for granted the love and acceptance that awaited me right outside my door.

I desperately wanted to recreate that experience at SCU, but I didn’t live on campus (instead I lived with Stupid Boy), and I worked about thirty hours a week. Groups of friends had already been established and they weren’t taking applications for new members. Not being the offspring of a rich, Silicon Valley executive, combined with my overall culture shock, I had a hard time fitting in.

You know how sometimes when you watch episodes of The Office, Michael Scott makes such an a** out of himself, it actually hurts to watch? If you could’ve seen my pathetic attempts to fit in, you’d have the same reaction. (Hand over heart, eyes squinting in near pain, saying, “Oh no, girl, just stop. Turn this off, I can’t watch.”) It’s amazing what one will go along with when one’s self-esteem and youthful need for validation are at stake. I latched on to anyone who would pay attention to me. I was a needy friend-slut.

First was Elle, a beautiful rich girl whose idea of friendship included constantly weighing ourselves on her bathroom scale, followed by her trying to convince me to make myself throw up with her. (Don’t worry, I didn’t do it.)

Then there was Angela, a quiet, conservative intellectual by day and a wild, ecstasy-popping party girl by night. I allowed her to drag me to every dance club in San Francisco, plus a couple in Hollywood. I might as well have tattooed “I don’t belong here” across my forehead.

There was also Cassie, a cute, peppy little number who talked even faster than I do. She wanted me to try out for the dance squad with her, but it became immediately apparent that I wouldn’t fit in with that clique either.

(Each of those examples could be a post by themselves. Hmmm, maybe I’ll do that… )

Finally, I met Shawna in anthropology class. To this day, if you asked me who the nicest person I’ve ever known is, I would think of her first. We hit it off right away and became great friends.

One day, the guy behind me in that class said he noticed I had an accent and asked where I was from.

“Here we go.” I dreaded these conversations. This one went as usual.

“I’m from Michigan.”

“Detroit?”

“No, Flint.”

“Flint… hey, didn’t Michael Moore make a movie about that place?”

Yes, Michael-fricking-Moore made a movie about that place. And because these kids were forced to watch it in high school for one class or another, they immediately thought they knew everything about me.

“Do people really eat rabbits from their backyards?” (I wish I could say it was just this one guy who asked me that question, but no.)

“No, of course not.” (I resisted the urge to add “moron” to the end of that statement.)

“Well, now it makes sense that you and Shawna are such good friends.”

Huh??? “Why?”

“You know.” The guy started to look embarrassed. “Because she’s black.” He whispered the last word.

And some Californians think Midwesterners are ignorant. This was a whole new level of ignorant.

Since then, I’ve made many wonderful friends in California. But for that to happen, I had to stop trying so hard and start being a little pickier when establishing relationships. I also had to let go of a few ignorant prejudices of my own.

Twelve years later, I sometimes still feel too Michigan for California. I say “pop” instead of “soda,” I’m loyal to the Red Wings, and my accent hasn’t completely disappeared, but I know I’m where I belong. Nestled between the ocean and the mountains, beneath the California sun with my husband and baby boy, I’m finally home.

Thanks for having me, Kate. I’m thrilled to belong in Sluiter Nation!

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I will admit, the husband and I say “soda” even though it does not fit how we were raised.  There, my secret is out.

Anyway, isn’t Melissa lovely?

You need more of her, so you should read these posts…

This resonates with me big time because I am also a People Pleaser…but sometimes I think I also go too far the other way:  Pulling a Pam

Need a laugh?  This seems like the exact thing that would happen to me:  Okay, Come Look at My Butt

A decision every summer reminds me I will probably never make:  My New Office

Ack!  Her little boy is beyond cute! Not-so-wordy-Wednesday: Splitting Hairs

So there you go.  A new blogger to add to your reader.

I told you…she was all hidden…when she most certainly shouldn’t have been.

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About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. I’m deeply honored be a Sluiter Nation Recruit, Kate. Thanks so much for having me over and helping me become “unhidden.” You’re welcome to sneak over anytime, even if you do say “soda.” 🙂 Michigan high five!

  2. I loved this post and I will be heading over to Melissa’s blog. I’m also glad to know I’m not the only born and raised Michigander who says soda. My family has a field day with it.

  3. I felt the same way when I first moved to South Carolina. Virginia was and still is home.

  4. I’m from Michigan and cracked up because when I had to travel to both Tennessee and Houston for work this past year, I had many (twangy) people tell me I had a super thick Michigan accent. Plus, I’m in Grand Rapids, and the only city people ask about is Detroit. I have to pull the “use my hand as a Michigan map” trick and try to explain…

    I’m also a huge Tigers and Red Wings fan and actually lived in Detroit for six months in college for an internship with the Wings, so rock on!

    • You’re from Michigan TOO, Abby? Shoulda known. 🙂 Yes, the hand map is awesome, especially when you use it someone who doesn’t know Michigan is shaped like a hand. Blows them away. Go Wings!!

  5. Hey Melissa,

    I’m also from Michigan and had to laugh. I’m actually from Lapeer, and I work in Flint, so I COMPLETELY understand.

  6. I love Lapeer. My dear friend was married on a lake there a couple years ago. So beautiful.

  7. I’m a lifer here in California…but I haven’t seen Michael Moore’s movie about Flint and would never ask if you ate rabbits out of your yard (even if I had).

    My mother grew up in Chicago but moved here 50 years ago, yet people still sometimes pick up a word and KNOW she didn’t “come from here.” When she speaks, I just hear my mother. No accent.

    Maybe that’s why I loved your blog. Or maybe it’s just because you’re that awesome. 😉
    Glad you’re here to spice up the west coast.

    And also? There is no situation in life for which one can’t find a good metaphor on The Office.

    Oh yeah.

    • Aw, shucks, Julie. Thanks for the kind words. Yeah, I never thought I had an accent either until I moved here. Glad to know I’m not the only one who finds her life reflected in The Office plot lines. 🙂

  8. Melissa, I LOVE reading your posts, and I am happy to see your writings are spreading! Being from the Midwest myself (and having moved here for a stupid boy!) I can really relate to your experiences as a transplant. California has been my home for almost twenty years, but I know I will always be a Hoosier.

    Thanks for writing, and let’s swap transplant stories sometime soon. 🙂

    Your friend in Santa Cruz, Kathy

    • Thanks, Kathy! Would love to swap stories soon! We have lots of catching up to do. Just pick a day, and I’ll drive over the hill. 🙂

  9. Melissa sounds awesome – plus, my mom’s from Flint, so I feel a bond already!

  10. I’m a “pop” girl too – from Ohio. Which hopefully doesn’t make us enemies due to that whole Buckeye Nation/Michigan rivalry thing. 🙂

    And thanks for becoming “unhidden” – I’m a new follower!

    • Thanks for the follow, Missy! My family still calls me Missy, so since we have the same name, I can overlook the whole Buckeye thing. Do they sell Faygo in Ohio? I could use some Red Pop right now… or some Rockin’ Rye…