birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

The Uninitiated

I’ve experienced actual initiations. I joined a sorority in college with an official initiation ceremony. It was lovely. I was initiated into an honor society with a pompous initiation—no surprise there. Neither of these initiations led me to wonder about what I had gotten myself into. I tired of being in sorority, and I never thought much about the honor society. It was one of those looks good on your resumé sort of thing.

Starting school at Auburn, something I had wanted and wished for, was a shock. Starting college is a bumpy transition no matter what, I think. I bumped into something extra that first summer at Auburn. I was initiated into being a Southerner. I thought I was a Southerner. I grew up in Atlanta. I quickly realized that I had no idea what the South really was. This felt like another planet.

In my nice, white middle class neighborhood and school, I never heard a racial slur. Okay, I heard a friend’s brother use the n-word one time. His mother washed his mouth out with soap. Literally. I knew not to use that word before, but the message was solidified. I never heard my parents disparage anyone. I didn’t know anyone who did. It didn’t occur to me that it was because there was no one around to disparage.

I also had never heard the stereotypical thick Southern accent. I thought all that stuff—nasty racism, twangy accents, mean rednecks—were just things on tv. My first quarter at Auburn was an eye-opening experience. I was miserable. I wondered many times what I’d gotten myself into and if I could get out of it? It took me years to accept that this is part of being a Southerner, too. It was a slow initiation into the Southern thing.

With Apologies to Russ and Robin Who Have To Read This