BREAKING AWAY: THE FEELING OF LEAVING SMALL TOWN AMERICA

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“Why broadening your horizons could help you grow?”

Coming from a small town, I moved to New York City back in the 2011. The city was in Wisconsin with a population of 78,000. Very few people take it among themselves to leave their surroundings. But as for me, I wanted more: to see more, experience more, strive for more. The comfort in living in small town USA can be almost like a crutch for a lot of people. The daunting task of removing yourself from your environment can be tough. Another reason for not leaving is that you don’t want to be the person who leaves. Then you’re forced to come back because you can’t make it in the big city.

Well, let me put it to you this way. As a person coming from small town America, there are a lot of people in your surroundings not surviving anyways. So what’s it to you to put yourself out there and try. We are all so caught up in what someone else will think and not ourselves. I’ll tell you from experience, that just making the move is a lot more than anyone else around you would do. You made the initiative to jump from a small place to a big place. Most are far too afraid, so you’ve already defeated the odds just doing that much. Now, as far as success is concerned, what do you aspire to become.

For me it’s writing. Now I know what you’re thinking, you can write anywhere. But living in New York City is an inspiring location. Whether its venturing into the heart of Manhattan or staying around in my Harlem neighborhood. There is also so much to do in the outer boroughs, or better yet New Jersey is right across the river. Coming to this city for graduate school, I sort of threw myself into the mix. What’s funny is that I never visited New York until I came for graduate school. That is a major risk because what if I didn’t like the city.

But what happened is that I fell in love with this major city. And when I say major I mean major. Coming from a 78,000 population to a metropolitan population of 25 million with over 60 million tourists is a quantum leap. People have told me, I never would have made the leap. But I guess that’s what separates me from them. I am not afraid to step into a new surrounding. I’ve even contemplated moving to another major city; maybe Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Miami. So you ask me, how do you overcome such fears and move away.

Well for starters, I came for graduate school and stayed in campus housing. That was a great way for me to start in a new city. I had a roof over my head and food in my mouth. This helps when moving anywhere new. But even after grad school ended, then what? Well, next I am a more fearless person. I’m not afraid of failing in my pursuit of what I want in life. Which is what it takes to live in a bigger city. You have to put yourself in harms way sometimes so that good things can happen to you.

I also had a support system from back home. This also doesn’t hurt when moving to somewhere new as well. Having loved ones who believe in you can really help. You see, in the end, fears and the unknown keep people from leaving their surroundings. No one wants to fail, or at least fail to hard. But you have to jump off of cliffs. You have to trust yourself and believe that eventually you’ll glide safely to the ground.

OFF THE BLOCK: Why Black People Should Travel

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“Why we need to leave the block.”

As a Black man, I wish I could take my views of the world and place them into the minds of so many other young Black males. I am always trying to broaden my horizons as well as understanding other groups. I love Black culture, but I also love learning new cultures as well. I think there is a problem that permeates within our community that makes us not want to leave the block. I live in Harlem, New York, and the same faces I seen on a daily bases hanging on the street corner. I would like to ask these guys one day, “Have you ever been off the block?” “Have you ever even been to Times Square?” “Have you been to The MET?”

And for those of you that don’t know what the MET stands for, it is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City’s Upper East Side neighborhood. Working there as an Usher for concerts and performances, I love eying the many sculptures and art pieces that have been sent from around the world by various countries. Such as the Egyptian antiquities sent from places like Alexandria and Cairo, even the stone carved sculptures of the Medieval Period of European history, as well Mesopotamia in the Middle East and the Native American artifacts of this country.

I would just love to put other Black men in the know. To know that you are missing out on so many great things in life. You say why Black men? Well, we have this tendency to only see what is on the block. We can’t for some reason see past the block. And a lot of times, we don’t know of anything past the block. For example, my oldest sister is who introduced me to eating sushi with chopsticks. Starting with the food, and has opened my mind to what else is there to know about the Japanese culture. But see, cultural understanding didn’t start with my sister, it came from my mother.

As a child growing up in a traditional Black family, we ate soul food on a daily basis. But it was my mother who said, “Hey, it’s Chinese food Friday, Gyro Saturday, or how about Mexican food Sunday.” So I wanted to take myself to another place mentally from my childhood experiences. She also put us in schools where her children would get a more universal experience. Our cable television was used to challenge us as well: History Channel, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, and even Jeopardy quiz show of random information. we frequented the library where we were asked about anything interesting that we wanted to do or learn. So from my childhood, I was so intrigued to know more.

Another reason I want Black men to leave the block, is to get a passport. I am currently working on getting myself a passport as well. We need to travel, and I’m not talking Las Vegas or Miami. I’m talking Sydney, Australia; Tokyo,Japan; Moscow, Russia; Berlin, Germany; or Cairo, Egypt. Why international? Well because for so long, Black people have been told that you’ll experience hatred and rejection from outside the country. But the most oppression has come via United States. Why do we believe in the hype that we are so hated. Not only is this not true, but internationally, people know, understand, and respect our will to fight through our struggles here in America.

As for me, if anyone says this particular group hates you, I make it my business to open the dialect with that group. Because if they do, I’ll be able to breakdown where they got it from. For example, I was watching television where a man in Russia said he didn’t like Black people. When asked why considering you have and may never come in contact with Black people. He stated, That’s what he sees on TV and in the movies. So I went, ahhh, he just gave me enough information to make my decision. That is why it’s our job to travel and show people we are not what people have been told. Because if not, we will continue to believe thoughts and ideologies about us that were not pushed nor created by us. Putting yourself in the know is crucial in our lives moving forward.