Hard Truths, Chapter 4.16: Other Folks Don’t Live Like We Do

I‘m in Edenton, North Carolina. Until Clark Kent brought it up as a destination, I had no idea Edenton existed.

While he’s got family here and it’s a dual birthday-in-a-cottage-by-the-sea/family visit trip, it’s apparently a hot bed for both Revolutionary and Civil War history.

We’ve strolled around town (that took 30 minutes), taken a photo or three. Seen some eerie stockades and pillory that were so well-maintained it was creepy.

Read signs that should have been better maintained about slave uprisings and the vastly unjust differences between punishments for blacks and whites accused of the same crimes.

We forget. It’s history. Until a sign is staring you in the face, it’s easy to walk through Edenton and marvel at its vast colonial mansions and quaint gas lamps, swerve through the slightly dog-legged streets and trip on a brick-paved path, hear that distinct Carolina drawl — it’s easy to look at it all and think this place is adorable and as American as it gets.

And it is. Industry here is thin and peanuts and cotton rule agriculture. Boat manufacturing is the only real quirk of the local economy. But this town rolls up the asphalt at 5PM and there are few choices for dinner and you walk into the coffee shop and the kind gentleman who owns your AirBnB buys your breakfast and everyone says hi and I can’t wait to go home.

I forget that other people don’t live like I do.

C’mon. You’ve done it. You’ve taken a trip and thought, “My god, how can they NOT <fill in blank>!??!!?!”

Because they don’t.

I’m in the South. I’m a southern gal. My drawl is thick after 36 hours here and it’ll take me 3 weeks to lose it again.

But I forget that my world is bigger than Chicago, Illinois.

I forget that folks in red states have real needs and are kind people.

I forget that blue states have just as many assholes.

And I forget that maybe not everyone — or anyone at all, for that matter — needs GrubHub and Eat24 and Instacart and Postmates and the ability to have everything delivered straight to your door.

That it’s okay to get your coffee from a shoppe, not a ‘bucks.

And that it’s nice to know your neighbors.

I forget in my privilege that whole southern economies were built on the backs of slaves. OWNED MEN AND WOMEN. Those seen as less. Stolen from their homes. Killed without consequence. Used like machinery — though if you had machinery, you might invest in fixing it. I forget because I’m surrounded by people I appreciate as people for whom social justice is a lifelong commitment, not a cause. I forget until I look at a sign in front of a stockade that hasn’t been as well-maintained as a sign by some fucking TEAPOT and I think that bias perpetuates in the smallest of ways. Ways so small it can be dismissed as a, “Whelp, haven’t gotten ’round t’that one quite yet.”

I forget that there are folks who will, over a beer or glass of wine, tell you that medical marijuana is a bad idea. That there are folks who just don’t talk about things like that in public. Ain’t proper.

I forget that a man you’ve barely met who’s 30 years your senior feels quite at home calling a woman out to stop picking on her better half — though he was the one who lobbed the joke into the air not 10 seconds prior.

I forget that dry humor can be too dry and rub you raw — because no harm meant doesn’t necessarily mean no harm done.

I forget that rent can be under $700 a month for a 3-bedroom house (no shit, right?!).

And basically, I just forget that all across the world, people don’t walk into a well-appointed two-bedroom apartment with radiators and appliances and nice hardwood floors and a plop down on the sofa and call it home.

It makes me embarrassed. To forget all this.

Because one of the most beautiful parts of my year were all the folks yesterday who sent me an email with the little things they’d forgotten. From shaving cream that smelled like silly putty to being first in the pool to bikes dropped in the front yard in a day where no one would steal them. One of you missed Hee Haw (you slay me) and someone else missed Three’s Company and one of you weirdos missed Chia Pets (which I think you can still order??).

You forgot what your newborn daughter’s feathery hair smelled like and that your son’s first word was (apparently) “damn”.

We forget a lot. And no two lives are quite the same. No two homes are quite the same. No two cities, countries, ideologies, religions, families, or restaurants.

We forget. And it’s natural. Because how can we possibly remember it all?

One of the greatest gifts of this trip to a sleepy town on the Carolina shore has been remembering a few things that life’s turned to a blur. Because each day, the things I’ve been reminded of are the day-to-day realities of others. For better and worse. And someone else’s better just might be my privileged worse.

And as humans, we all get by just fine. And no matter how fine we get by, we want better.

But we can forget that what we’ve got is pretty damn good. And it’s okay to appreciate what’s good for you. It’s just a human failing that along the way, we forget a bunch of stuff that can help us appreciate how other folks live — even though it’s not for us.

So today, this Saturday, ask yourself: What’s one thing beyond my world that life’s turned to a blur?

Is it how someone else lives? A piece of history you thought was cool as fuck in 8th grade? That weird rule your friend’s parents had when you went over to his house?

Folks live differently. The way you and I live — whelp, ain’t necessarily better. It’s just different.

Perhaps it’s something to appreciate so we can better appreciate the way we’ve each chosen to live.

Which is what I’m going to do when I board a plane back to Chicago, IL this afternoon because while Edenton is lovely, I love my life in a city with a pulse. Which I know might drive some of the folks in the good town of Edenton straight-up batshit crazy.

Though the ones I’d met wouldn’t likely say “batshit.”

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