I will start this out by stating that I was born and raised about a mile outside Philadelphia. I grew up with an indoctrination of Springsteen, Delessandro’s Steaks, and Eagles football. You know the depiction of Eagles fans in Silver Linings Playbook? That is the most accurate depiction I’ve seen to date. (i.e. My family had a sacrilegious shrine set up every Sunday to the birds while I was growing up.) The tri-state area was all that I knew until age 18. I love the area and all that it has to offer. Summertime at the Shore, intense tailgates in the Jetro lot, and concerts at the Susquehanna Bank Center were responsible for some of my most fond memories growing up. However, by 18 I was ready to be anywhere but home. When it came time to apply to college I looked at mostly schools down south. I wanted warm weather and a big football program. Long story short, I decided to attend school in NC. As one may assume, I quickly found myself immersed in a completely different culture.
Cheesesteaks were replaced with BBQ and coleslaw, Springsteen with Hank Williams Jr., Eagles with NC collegiate football, and “you guys” with “y’all.” I learned new things every day. They sell alcohol in convenience stores? Uh, yes please. Croakies to hold your sunglasses? SO CONVENIENT. The NC landscape? Breathtaking. I tried to take it all in, and it was an overwhelming, but amazing, feeling. As I went through my four years, I began to feel like I grew up in NC. I formed close friendships, and began to feel as if these were the people that I had grown up with my whole life. It was almost as if my two worlds had traded places. I would go home and catch flack for things like the “accent” that I had picked up at school, or the southern influence on my style. People were fascinated to hear about things like my first time trying moonshine, or college game day in the south. It was if I were a foreign life-form that they wanted to dissect. Needless to say, I began to feel distant from the place I once called home. I felt as if my friends back home couldn’t relate to me anymore. I spent three out of four summers in my college town and only went home for major holidays. I was increasingly identifying myself with NC rather than PA. North Carolina became responsible for some of my most amazing experiences. Sadly, my four years were coming to a close, and I was faced with a major decision. Stay down in NC, or go back home to Philly. Eventually I decided to go back up north. All of my family is in the area and family means everything to me.
Anyway, I have recently moved back to the area. I now live in the city and have begun my journey into big boy adulthood (depressing). The experience feels as if it has come full circle. I now find myself trying to transition back into city life in the north. I’ve slowly started to filter “y’all” out of my vocabulary, and am looking forward to singing the bird’s fight song as they score their first TD of the NFL season. I am rekindling my romance with Philadelphia. However, I know that I am not the same naive youngster who decided to venture down I-95 S to attend college. Although I may have left some of the southern mannerisms behind, I would like to think that I have become a better and more balanced person because of my experience. I am not sad that I have left NC. I have some amazing memories from my time there, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. Instead, I feel as if I gained a second place to call home. NC will always be there for me to come back to, and I will make sure to take as many trips back as I can.
I wrote this column for all my fellow transplants out there. My experience is not a unique one. I know that many people move one way or another across the Mason-Dixon line for school. The transition back is a tough one, and I wanted to throw a shout out to my fellow postgradders that find themselves in the same boat. We may have been raised in one region and educated in another, but this means we got the best of both worlds. I always find comfort traveling back and forth on I-95 because I know that no matter which direction I am headed, I am always headed home.