Growing up, I hated living in Kansas. I felt stuck, like a big fish in a small bowl. I felt that there were bigger and better things out there for me. This feeling grew as I got older, feeding my passion to travel and get myself out of here. I felt almost weighed down by my association with this fly-over state because every time I would leave and tell somebody where I was from, it was always greeted with a “Well, you’re not in Kansas anymore” or a “Where’s Toto at?” Not saying that I hated the Wizard of Oz or anything, but there’s more to Kansas than tornadoes and Aunt Em and Uncle Henry’s farm.
Eventually, I joined the Marine Corps. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that a part of the reason I joined was the travel opportunities. Who wouldn’t love to get paid to see the world? Eventually I received my ship-out date, which was September 7th, 2010; right at the end of the summer after graduation. As the date got closer the anticipation continued to grow, and before I knew it I was stepping on a plane that was bound for California.
My first views of California were of the lights of San Diego since we arrived after sunset. Regardless, it was breathtaking. Coming to the realization that I was actually there was completely surreal. After getting off the plane, I located the USO office in the Airport, handed them my orders, and was instructed to stand outside. Soon enough, a bus arrived and took those of us waiting outside away to Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD): San Diego, where we would begin boot camp.
From the moment we disembarked the bus, our worlds were turned upside-down. For most of us, it was the first time we had ever really been away from home and Drill Instructors aren’t the most understanding individuals. We lived in an environment that was high stress at all times to make sure that we could operate in high stress situations like combat. All the constant yelling and running and trying not to stand out to the Drill Instructors kind of takes up most of your cognitive thought allowing your subconscious to kind of float around and do as it pleases, and that is where my Kansas roots initially manifested themselves; my subconscious.
I heard the usual barrage of comments in the following weeks. I was asked where Toto was, called Dorothy, told the obvious fact that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore (Gee, you think I’d be able to tell from the MOUNTAINS), and other stuff like that. But something funny started happening; I didn’t feel the usual stigma I had before when hearing these things. Eventually I met other recruits in the company from Kansas and before too long we had plans to hang out on leave after getting out of boot camp.
- Quote paper
- Jacob Valdez (Author), 2012, Personal Ethnography over Mid-west Regional Identity, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/211405