My interaction with society has been characterized by family’s habitual movement- particularly in the last four years.
As you may have read in a previous post, legally I’m Ugandan. Both of my parents were born and raised in Uganda, and I was born there as well. At age one, my family moved to Nairobi, Kenya. We lived there for the next 4 years. I’m told that I was very outgoing. I would meet random people on the street and begin talking to them. It did help that I was fluent in Swahili at the time.
A few months after my 5th birthday, my family moved to the United States. We lived in a small suburb in near Chicago called Vernon Hills. The inspiration behind our migration was my dad’s pursuit of a Masters and a PHD in theology at Trinity International University (TIU). I completed Kindergarten there. Living there for a year didn’t really change my outlook/interaction with society. I was still a trusting, innocent, and wildly extroverted child. The only major outcome of our stay was me forgetting how to speak Swahili. And yes, I did forget an entire language in less than a year.
The following year we moved to TIU’s campus. We stayed there for the next six years (grades 1-6). The university’s campus was located in a very small town called Bannockburn (also in the Chicagoland area). Apart from the international students that lived in the University Campus, Bannockburn was made up multi-million dollar houses. At one point Michael Jordan lived there. As a result, my school was very small. It was a K-12 school. There approximately 18 people in each grade. As result of small community, I quickly got comfortable in my new surroundings- maybe too comfortable.
In those years, I had lot of energy and not enough time to expend it. My second grade teacher requested that I be tested for ADHD (which I didn’t have). I had a loud and outgoing personality. As a result I was somewhat popular (at least as popular as you can be in a school with only 120 students). By the end of 6th grade I had good grades, I was the star of the basketball team (which only had 8 people), and I hadn’t hit the nasty stages of puberty- life was good. I felt a great amount of confidence I that carried over to many aspects of my life.
That confidence was all shattered when my family moved to Waukegan (and wasn’t just puberty because got to me). We stayed there for two years. Waukegan was almost an exact opposite of Bannockburn. Bannockburn had 120 students in the school; Waukegan had over 120 students in each grade. Bannockburn was predominately white; Waukegan was…well… let’s just say not white. The list goes on. In that community, conversation among friends was mostly encompassed of making in fun of one another (commonly known as roasting). Nobody was safe from the ridicule. I wasn’t accustomed that kind of humor, so I often took it personally. As result I became extremely self-conscious somewhat introverted.
I realized that my previous “code of conduct” wouldn’t work here. I would have to adapt. I changed the way I talked, dressed, and interacted with other people. My first year was me struggling to adapt to a different culture. In my second year (8th grade), I was finally able to get acclimated. I was finally able to make solid friendships. Much of that could be attributed to my athletic ability. By the end of the year I had straight as, won the Athlete of the Year award at graduation, and I was one of the most popular people at the school. Once again, life was good. Also once again, my parents decided to move (It’s like they knew I was happy). Despite success in gaining acceptance, Waukegan left some deep scars I may never heal from. I learned to laugh at myself even when it hurt, withhold emotions- especially anger, and develop a sense of self-consciousness and introversion.
For my freshman year, we moved Arlington Heights. Arlington Heights is similar to Bannockburn because it was also predominately white. It’s also different than Bannockburn because there were approximately 500 people in each grade. Living here, I was able to act a more freely. I made friends much faster had before. Living here helped me to become more like I am today. Neither completely extroverted introverted, but (correct me if I’m wrong) something in the middle. I have moments when I have the confidence to say anything to anyone (school appropriate of course). Other times, I lack the courage to initiate a conversation. Of course, I also have those moments when I want to avoid all human interaction (don’t we all).
Every time I moved, I changed. As a result, my relationship with society did also.
Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.