SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch Fall 2012 Personal Memory Ethnographies
In late July of 2010, I experienced my first glimpse of a small town. I went on a visit to the small and isolated, Sul Ross State University located in Alpine, Texas. The reason for the visit was because I was given an opportunity to play on the baseball team. At the time, it never really occurred to me that towns that size existed (probably because I never thought I’d be living in one). A town of 5,500 people feels way smaller after living in a huge city like Phoenix for 20 years. I found this out later, but visiting a small town and living in a small town are completely different. Usually when someone in Phoenix says, “there is nothing to do here” they are being sarcastic. In Alpine, there really was nothing to do. Going to class, going to eat at one of the seven restaurants, and visiting one of the three bars were the social events. It was a definite eye-opener for me to be in a town the size of maybe three square miles, nearly ten hours away from home. And not to mention, it was my first time ever being away from home, which made things that much harder for those first couple months.
The very first day I moved to Texas, my new coach said that he would give my number to one of the returning seniors and that he’d be calling to introduce himself and get to know me since I was new in town. As I was unpacking, I got a phone call from that returner named Cameron. During the conversation he invited me out to his place with a few of the other guys that were also returning, but since I was literally in the middle of moving all my things out of my truck and into my empty apartment, I told him I couldn’t make it. I didn’t really think anything of it, I thought he would call back in a couple days and invite me over again but was I wrong.
I found this out later, but that day Cameron had a few of the other new guys over at his house along with the fellas from the year before and Cameron told them that I didn’t want to come over because I was “organizing my room”. I’m sure they thought, “What kind of guy organizes his room… that kid has gotta be gay.” I’m not, but all the guys on the team had no way of knowing that so they had the impression of me from the get-go that I must be gay. And it’s even worse because in Alpine, all the guys do is hang out with each other and drink. The fact that I was from an entirely different state probably didn’t help either. People from Texas are very into themselves unlike any people from other states; they feel as if being from Texas makes them special. I also found out later, from that moment on I would be labeled the “Arizona Kid.” From then on, I rarely got invites to go anywhere or to do anything; it wasn’t a desirable situation to be in. It almost felt as if I was unwanted, or even an outsider.
It felt as though I was stuck Alpine (as an outcast) and the first month or two was extremely rough and challenging for me. I was close to only a couple guys from the team (also new guys) and even fewer people from school. I couldn’t just drive home like most my teammates could; they all lived within 6 hours for the most part, my 10-hour drive was a little more inconvenient. Therefore, I didn’t see my family or friends for three months after I moved out. That didn’t help the situation either, but I gutted through it one day at a time. As the fall semester, practices and workouts went on, I got to know some more of the guys a little better, but another setback was steadily occurring that I wasn’t even aware of. Again finding out later, one of the new guys (Brian) had been over at Cameron’s house on that first night, so he had heard in person that story about me being gay. Being a very boisterous and opinionated guy, Brian began to poke some fun at me (behind my back) by making fun of my deep and raspy voice. This went on all semester and even into the spring semester until I found out about it. Brian and I didn’t really like each other in the fall, but we were on the same van for our first road trip in the beginning of February and everything came out. Ironically, I happened to be on the van that the majority of the returners were on from that first night Cameron called me. I guess they got a better sense of who I was from the four hour ride to Hobbs, New Mexico and back because they started asking questions about me and seemed legitimately interested in what I had to say.
After this went on for a few minutes, they finally asked me why I waited to be “this” cool around them. To which I responded, I’ve always been “this” cool. I told them that I haven’t changed and that I was the same kid then as the first day I moved to Alpine. All of their jaws about hit the floor of the van. Then, Brian wasted no time in telling me why there was so much confusion between me and the rest of the team. When he told me the whole story about the phone call with Cameron and what Cameron told everyone at his house, everything became crystal clear. The lights turned on and that “aha” moment hit me like a freight train. It all made sense to me from then on as to why my fall semester had been so awful. I finally realized why they all didn’t like me as much early on as they did from that moment on. And it’s even more ironic because Cameron is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, but it ended up being completely his fault that all the guys didn’t give me a shot until February. What could be the funniest part of this story is that Brian and I became really close after that first road trip. We sat next to each other on every bus or van ride for the next two seasons. He even came back to Arizona with me for a long weekend after the 2011 season was over.
After the conversation with Brian in the van, it felt as if the weight of the world had been taken off my shoulders. The reason this memory sticks with me so much is because I never let it ruin the experience of struggling for the first time, growing up and being on my own. There were times when it bothered me a little but it all turned out for the best. As much as I hated the first semester in Texas was how much I loved the last three. I guess it was the feeling of overcoming that adversity that dragged me down so much at the start. It was a complete change of heart from August of 2010 to the August of 2011. That first year, I wanted no part of leaving home; the second year, I couldn’t wait to leave home and be back in Alpine, as weird as it sounds.
This memory didn’t really change my life, but it certainly taught me an important lesson to not judge someone without getting to know them first, regardless whether they are gay or not. Trust me, I know from experience and it’s not very pleasant to be that guy, on the outside looking in.
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