Ode to Alabama

I recently finished an 8 month stint working in Gulf Shores Alabama.

I never had much experience in the South until recently, and must admit- I had never really thought about checking out Alabama.  Lucky for me, life brought me there for awhile anyway.

For me, going to a new place is like coloring in a map- adding richness and detail to something that was only in black and white outline in my mind. In the case of Alabama, I didn’t even have that outline, just a hazy jumble of images and impressions based on comments others have made or something on TV here and there.  If we’re not careful, we can build pretty convincing images of what a place is like, or what a person is like, by these hazy images.

I always try to be conscious of what preconceived notions I’m bringing to the table in a new relationship (whether that be with a person, place, or situation).  We all make quick impressions in the beginning, we all stereotype– these are tools we need and use to navigate the world we live in– but we must make a space for the truth to shine through the labels we use to negotiate with our new surroundings.

When my thoughts are controlling me and not the other way around (which is most of the time) I try to catch myself and liken the process to tidying up a desk, and putting all the books back on their shelves.  If a man with a Southern drawl tells me he’s a practicing Christian, my mind bombards me with “facts” I “need” to know about this person.  But if I have a moment of consciousness I can stop, put those books back on the shelf, say ‘thank you, for informing me of  those things, you can go back on your little shelves now’, and wait for what this person is going to show me about themselves.  Yes, I may choose to be more cautious discussing my views on abortion or something of the like, but, when consciousness prevails, I will listen to this person’s words, and watch their actions to see who they really are.

Whenever I successfully apply this practice I am rewarded.

I met several people in my time in Gulf Shores that my little mind told me so many silly things about- but in getting to know these people- and I’m sure my interactions with them only scratched the surface of what wonderful beings they are- I was pleasantly reminded of what fantastically complex and unique creatures we all are. How lucky! I was in need of this reminder.

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