I’m different. In the most superficial ways, but also in deep ones. Despite being at Duke for two years I’ve never been to Shooters. I’ve never blacked out from drinking and have no incriminating pictures on Facebook. I don’t own one item of Duke clothing. I didn’t go to the convocation during orientation week and thus did not sign the sheet binding me to the honor code. I seriously thought about skipping the class of 2013 picture. I didn’t care about being able to spot myself in the blown up print. When I confided my plan to the black-clad video game nerd from Idaho in my FAC group, he said "You really enjoy being different" without a speck of judgment.
My rugged independence and determination are great qualities. I never understood the big fuss over peer pressure. (And my friends in high school "pressured" me to try cocaine, meth and heroin.) I came out early and often. To quote Mean Girls, I’m a “floater.” But I know my difference can lead to a defeatist attitude, laziness and loneliness. I don’t feel in my element in a group of white people, a group of gay people or a group of upper middle class people. I actually feel most uncomfortable in groups whose composition is upper middle class and white, even if a quick glance at my government forms would indicate that is what I am. I’m most comfortable in groups so diverse they're practically walking advertisements for the Center for Race Relations. I pat myself on the back for fighting self-segregation, but I know I am staying within my comfort zone, much like the members of minority and majority groups that are accused of this heinous crime. I'm comfortable with people who are also different, not people who assume incorrectly that the color of my skin means my background is similar to theirs.
Acknowledging the irreconcilable differences I have with the majority of the Duke population- my sexuality, my cultural mixdness, my “hardcore” middle and high school experiences, my insistence on a social life that doesn’t require a large disposable income- has made my Duke experience much more enjoyable. I’m hesitant to say I love Duke because of the social ills I’m confronted with everyday. I don’t feel an affinity with every Duke student. I definitely wouldn’t want to be here all year round. At Duke, school spirit is such an all-consuming ideology that it’s easy to forgot that at other colleges (for example, Carnegie Mellon and Brown) my level of zealotry would be normal. I understand that people can love Duke and acknowledge its social ills. I can see myself living in San Francisco after graduation even though it has serious issues with housing affordability and homelessness. The difference is that right now Duke’s flaws affect me personally and San Francisco's don't. Do I have to love Duke to love being here? No. That meta-level love, while encouraged by pep rallies and O-week events, is unnecessary.
I’m no longer in an ill-defined league of my own, where I congratulated myself simply for being myself. I see other Dukesters with similar goals and serious strengths over me. I have a supportive network of friends, a secure study spot in Perkins and an awesome summer in San Francisco lined up. I have no doubt that Duke is facilitating the life I want. I dance with queer ladies at the Pinhook and Vespa, tell it like it is at Women Loving Women, drink Paris tea at the Coffeehouse, smell the night air in the picturesque gardens, go to parties every weekend, see world-renowned performances for $5, participate in the ELI program at the Public Policy school, hop on the Robertson, and talk with people Singapore one minute and people from the rural South the next. I feel like it’s finally time for my difference to become a selling point, not a hindrance. Sorry I’m not sorry for my disinterest in Shooters, investment banking, grade-grubbing, sports, classic rock, Duke hoodies, celebrity gossip, going to the beach and television shows. Sorry I’m not sorry for my inability to dance like a white girl, my habit of dissapearing and getting lost, my encyclopedic knowledge of sex, my penchant for studying alone, my laid-back attitude and my outlandish ideas. It's easy to be sorry when you’re struggling to come alive, to find your place, to have audacious goals and good grades. But now I’m no longer struggling and I’m definitely not sorry.
Have a great summer everyone! If you're going to be in San Francisco during June and July, hit me up. Also, is it just me or is San Fran the queer femme capital of the world?