How A Season Of Mississippi Living Changed Me

Her Voice

I am a city girl.

I love the hustle and bustle of the city: the opportunities, the events, and the people.

However, when you just want some peace and quiet, the city is just the opposite. I spent the past summer in Mississippi, the backwoods in Mississippi. Trust me, the distinction is necessary. There's no semblance of the life I left behind in Chicago.

As a child, I was forced to spend a couple of summers in Mississippi with my great-grandmother. My father had such fond memories of the place, I thought I would love it too.

I didn't.

I hated the heat. The bugs. The animals. I hated how quiet it was.

And quite honestly, every image or thought I had of Mississippi was akin to the movie, Mississippi Burning. I was paranoid that every pick-up behind us on the dark roads was the Klan coming to get us. In some ways, I had an overactive imagination.

Then again, Mississippi is Mississippi.

I took my current trip to Mississippi because I needed to escape.

The city that I loved had also hardened me over the years. It's the reason I've heard more gunshots than imaginable. It's the place where I lost classmates to violence. It was the place where income equality and segregation contributed to chaos in some neighborhoods and safety in others. And it was also the reason for heightened anxiety after being robbed at gunpoint. The city that I loved had started to feel more like a prison than a home.

In the woods of Mississippi, the homes are far apart. There are barely any streetlights. Things close early. No liquor sales on Sundays. While it was totally different, it was exactly what I needed.

I wasn't worried about what I was doing on the weekend because honestly, there was nothing to do. I wasn't worried about my surroundings because there's no one around. I chose what to do with my day. I enjoyed the sunlight and the stillness. I had a chance to sit with my thoughts. I had the chance to write and I did so every day.

Being in Mississippi also gave me the opportunity to spend time my father. I hadn't lived with him since I was 8 years old. As a young child, my father was all over the place. While sweet to my sisters and me, he angered quickly and was volatile. About 15 years ago, he moved from Chicago to Mississippi and that has done well for his temperament.

It was amazing to see the man he'd become: someone who was calm, reflective, spiritual and on a journey of self-improvement. It was nice to get up and have coffee with him and have discussions. Like me, he enjoyed talking about politics, how we could improve our communities, and old movies.

It was funny to see the similarities we shared and how the quirks I thought were unique to myself were inherited from him.

In my father's quest to improve himself, he wanted to enrich the lives of those around him. He was determined to teach me how to drive. While I don't need a car in the city, I still think driving is an important skill. A two-car road with no lines is intimidating, to say the least, and if I ventured off the road, there's a sturdy tree waiting for me. My father would say if you can drive this road, you could drive anywhere. I believe he's right.

After getting accustomed to passing cars, no lights at night, and staying calm when I hit deep curves as to not drive off in a ditch, I can drive; even though, I drive slow enough to drive Miss Daisy.

I never thought the place I dreaded as a child could ever provide me with any solace.

In Mississippi, I saw distant family members, enjoyed impromptu BBQs with my dad and step-mother, and took a weekend trip to my favorite city: New Orleans.

In Mississippi, I thought about what was important. I cultivated a calmness that helped lessen my anxiety. I left Mississippi more determined to accomplish my goals and a renewed sense of self.

Mississippi became the place that I came back to life.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissons@xonecole.com.

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