Author: Ashley Mohler
I was naive. I was sheltered. I was ignorant and innocent. My trip to Tracy, California opened my eyes to a new kind of people. These were people that I thought that I knew. They weren't the kids in my Sunday School class. They weren't the kids in the secluded halls of junior high. They weren't the young girls that were my friends back home. They were my distant family.
My family and I flew from Oklahoma to California to attend my cousin's wedding. It was the summer before my tenth grade year. I wasn't a child anymore. I was old enough to run with the big kids, my older, experienced cousins. My older cousins were both boys--they were inappropriate and they loved it. They freely used words I'd rarely heard before. They talked about things I only sort of knew about, things I wouldn't even dare to think about. They made gestures that ran electricity down my spine and reddened my cheeks. I didn't understand, I couldn't believe people acted this way, said these things. Crude comments, vulgar remarks, and indecent insults came my way. This was normal? This was cool? I was spellbound.
During our trip to California, we visited San Francisco. This was my treat because I'd always been fascinated by the hustle and bustle of the big-city life I saw on television so often. Unfortunately, we just happened to visit on the day a lesbian and gay pride parade would hit the streets. Once more, I was educated of things beyond my imagination. People with nude bodies on the streets, people with signs yelling things I did not understand, people with each other in ways I'd never seen filled my eyes and my mind throbbed with curiosity but mostly concern. I was awestruck.
My preacher, my school teachers, my parents tried to hide these things. Back home in small-city Oklahoma these people were like the giants and ogres in fantasy stories. They weren't actually real. I had learned that these things were so wrong. They couldn't have been true. However, here they were, in front of my eyes.
When my trip was over, my family and I returned to my comfortable life in the Bible Belt. I returned to my idea of the way life was: sugar-coated, gilded. However, years later, I realize that trip to California only foreshadowed the life I see now. I've been through 2 years of High School where drugs, sex, and dishonesty are spilling into the hallways of public school. I'm drowning in a bog of media that tells me that I should be skinny, that sex is fun, that values only make life boring, and that I should worry only about things that are going to benefit myself. I've watched my society sink deeper into a quicksand of immorality. I am dismayed.
My trip gave me an understanding of what the world is like when one opens their eyes to a world beyond the wall that guardians try to wrap around their young. I've learned that as I grow old I will continue to be surrounded by things that are outside of my "norm." I have a choice. I can conform to the morally digressing culture I live in, or choose to separate myself as a girl with standards and principles I've chosen for myself. I am firm. I am steadfast. I am unyielding and uncompromising.