Leaving home for college

We’re spending the weekend in Detroit, and we started the day at the Ford Rouge Factory and ended it with a walk around the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor campus and drinks in the area. As we walked around the campus, I thought about the way I looked at the world before leaving San Francisco to go to school in the Boston area and thought about how narrow-minded I was before.

The truth is that I think that in general, all of us see ourselves as being “open-minded” people, even when perhaps none of us really are. I’m not saying that we’re each individually to blame for our narrow-mindedness because a lot of it is based on lack of experience, which is only gained with time, and also exposure (or lack thereof) to things that are outside of our comfort zone and familiar haunts. Before 18, that’s mostly controlled by your parents and where you live. By default, your exposure is limited. But post-18, and especially post-college, we do have to accept responsibility for our actions and the way we think (to a degree with the latter… I suppose).

These are just some embarrassing examples of things I was not aware of or thought pre-Wellesley. Some seem like they are trivial or not deal breakers in terms of judging “level of intelligence,” but when I look back on these things, I can feel my face grow hot:

1. Cantonese food is not the only Chinese food there is. That applies to one province, which in the grand scheme of China, though it’s taken seriously as a top Chinese cuisine, is not the center of China.

2. Vietnamese refugees ended up all over the United States after the Vietnam War, not just California. Minority populations started popping up in places I never would have guessed before, like Texas, Minnesota, Louisiana, and Arkansas. I made friends with Vietnamese women from all of these states.

3. A Boston accent exists, as does a Bronx, Staten Island, Queens, and Long Island accent. Not just people in the South and Midwest have “accents.” I have an accent, too, apparently.

4. Burritos are not really Mexican. They are a Mexican/American/fusion-type dish. No burritos exist in Mexico unless for some reason, someone thought they’d bring it from the U.S. into Mexico.

5. The world does not revolve around San Francisco or any other place I might choose to live in. San Francisco is not representative of the rest of the country and sure as hell not the world. The Chinese population is not as big, the Korean population is not as small, and almost no other place I will ever go to will be as politically correct 24/7. There’s are great benefits to living in a city as diverse as San Francisco, but the danger behind that is that we may end up thinking it’s like that everywhere else. I’ve had colleagues in LA who did not believe me when I told them how few Asians there were in cities like St. Louis.

6. I’m going to wait until marriage to have sex, and I think most other people should, too (yes, really).

If I never left San Francisco (or California for that matter) and met people from around the country and world at the college I went to, I may not have realized a lot of these things. Yes, it’s great to have a place to call home, but it’s not great or healthy to live in my old glass menagerie thinking that what is immediately around me is the same as what everyone else has or experiences.

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