Where you Grew Up Matters, Even Today

Photo from sonama.edu

Photo from sonama.edu

All upbringings are not created equal. Let’s talk locations: suburbia verses the inner-city, LA verses NYC.

Different? Of course. But, is one better as it pertains to our future adult, social, and professional lives?

It’s common knowledge that the girl who grew up in Times Square had a different experience than the one born and raised in Nebraska. But are the effects of their respective upbringings on their lives after they leave home minimal or drastic?

The Nebraskan woman might know a thing or two more about Friday night tailgates than our New York gal, and substantially less about public transportation, but I am going to argue that these differences reach further than the means of every-day life. They reach into the realm of social and professional preparation.

Where we grow up warrants drastic effects on our adult lives. Perhaps the biggest difference between a city and a suburban upbringing lies in one word: exposure.

I come from a decent sized suburban town south of Denver where Conservatism is the norm and most people I know live in one of five models of homes built by the same builder (my family included). Needless to say, my exposure was minimal.

I have since made the move to New York City where, because of my lack of exposure, I can’t help but feel deprived.

Engaging in conversations with my friends here, (many of which have city backgrounds), I began to question why I seemed to know so much less than they did. Not in a mathematical or scientific sense, not in grammar, or philosophy, or psychology, but in something else—something a textbook won’t teach you—their cultural knowledge surpassed mine in ways I can only trace back to exposure.

They name dropped artists I had never heard of, and if I had, certainly I could not reference their specific pieces and the emotional periods that elicited them. They saw graffiti and knew its backstory. They knew the names of the CEOs at brands and organizations along with the innovative platforms that got them there.

It was frustrating at first. Why didn’t I know about the things they could nonchalantly reference?

Then I got it.

The weekends I spent hiking fourteeners, they spent wandering MoMa. Their classmates were people from every nook and cranny of the globe, mine were from 15 minutes down the road, and occasionally elsewhere in the midwest. They knew what Chana Masala was because they lived next door to Indian restaurants. I lived next door to a house that looked exactly like mine and the one after that, and the one after that, and… you get it.

On this new social front, I could easily feel in the dark about topics that came up in everyday conversation. But, I am catching on, and quicker than I thought.

As a college student constantly franticly fretting about the future that awaits, I also began to notice differences between myself and these “city-kids” on a professional plane.

I soon realized that my politeness could be mistaken as a lack of drive. I wasn’t going to “one-up” anyone at work because I was taught that that sort of thing is rude.

These city-kids, however, see such circumstances as opportunities to jump at. I am not faulting them, or even calling them rude. They know what they have to do to prove themselves, and they do it. The politeness of their actions is an after-thought.

So, the suburban kid (me) learns from them because in an intern-eat-intern world, does she have a choice?

Along the way she has also learned that while certain upbringings and backgrounds prove advantageous in certain circumstances, we are not tied to them. We are not handcuffed to the ideals and practices of our hometowns and cities. Instead, we can take with us those that we like, leave behind what we do not, and adapt those of the people we meet—people raised in places and surroundings completely polar from our own.

Today, when I see graffiti I wonder about it’s story: who it’s honoring, who it’s praising, who made it, and what they’re like. I thank my city friends for teaching me to see art where before I was conditioned to see crime.

And I think maybe just maybe, I’ve taught them some things too.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: LEILA ETTACHFINI 400816_395227533863819_120048826_n

I am currently a journalism and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies major at NYU though I’m originally from Colorado. My interests lie mainly in exploring and writing about music and social justice. I also do some technical writing work. I love art and I derive much of my inspiration from bouncing ideas between 60s and 70s culture with that of today.

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