We may leave the places we’re from, but they often have lasting impacts on the people we become. Allie Hoog, a Human Development and Family Studies major, and Anna Porter, majoring in Political Science and International Studies, reflect on what it was like to grow up in small towns in New Mexico and Ohio respectively before becoming students at Colorado State University. Listen to their conversation above, or read on for the full transcript.
Allie Hoog: How has the community you live in affected you, how you see yourself? Does it support you? Hinder you? In what ways?
I kind of started with growing up in a really small town — weird, weird little town — called Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the atomic bomb was invented. I grew up in a community of — heavily Latino — I grew up with race, really. I grew up thinking Latino and Chicano really was white. I didn’t really see a difference in that just because I had so many friends and family and just people all around me all the time who spoke Spanish and it was normal culture for me, the food was normal culture for me, even though I was Caucasian. I just didn’t really see that much of a line.
Anna Porter: The community I live in now is very different from the community I grew up in. I grew up in like a blue collar, working class town outside of Dayton, Ohio. It was 99% white, so when I came to CSU, I was like, “This place is so diverse!” Which, apparently, it’s not. So that was surprising.
Yeah, it was just a small town. No more than 5,000 people. It was a very conservative, Christian place.
Allie: Do you have more churches than stoplights in your town?
Anna: Oh, yeah. We have like two stoplights in our town. I think it’s mainly a little shell.
Allie: Growing up in a small town is tough when you’re not the cookie cutter than everyone else.
Anna: Yeah, right, right. I was not, being queer, liberal.
Allie: Didn’t go to church?
Anna: Well, I did go to church until I started working at Arby’s when I asked them to schedule me on Sunday mornings. But it’s fine because it’s my sister who made the schedules.
Because you don’t really leave those little towns — like my whole family still lives there. I’m the first person in my family with a college degree, so this is a big step, I guess…
Allie: A lot of people don’t leave Los Alamos either. Not necessarily like a betrayal, but you’re leaving this place, that’s not been done before, like you’re kind of an outsider. At the same time like you go back and you kind of don’t understand how things go.
Anna: I know. Any time I’m like on the dean’s list or anything comes up here at CSU he’s like, “Do you want us to put it in the local newspaper?” I was like, “Not really,” also ‘cos everyone in that town knows me as the trouble making lesbian.
Allie: You’re just a Satan-worshipper, aren’t you?
Anna: I was like, “They don’t need to see me in their newspaper.”
Allie: I think it’s like a small town thing, like everyone knows everyone. Like if I got in trouble, like, oof…
Anna: Yeah, everyone. The police reports were in the newspaper too!
Allie: I think small communities shape you and they make you really private too.
Anna: Yeah, I think so.
Allie: Like I’m super private about certain things.
Anna: I know. Sometimes I’m like, “How do these people just share this stuff on Facebook?”
Allie: People starting rumors and stuff — like tons of rumors got started about me just because I had sex with my first boyfriend and that’s —
Allie: That’s huge. That’s huge!
Anna: With abstinence only education.
Allie: Abstinence is great! It is great. If people choose to be abstinent that is your choice — as a sexual advocate and sex health educator I have to say that and I believe that, but baby levels rise.
My very first boyfriend. We were the couple of Los Alamos. We were scandalous all the time apparently. He was a big part of my identity. He really was. Thought I was gonna marry that man, you know, live in a small town, white picket fence. Just marry a Republican. Yeah.
Allie: It’s weird, like going back you almost feel like this place does feel like home in a way. But then in a way, too, you’re just like, “Thank God I don’t live here.”
Anna: Yeah, ‘cso my heart — I’m always constantly like, “Oh, I miss home.” But when I’m actually there, I’m like, “Hmm…”
Allie: I grew up with really close family friends. My mom was friends with really great women and so I’ve been raised by very strong, funny, super neurotic women who have penchants for gin & tonics and tequila in the best way possible. They have affected me in a very positive way.
My parents have always been very supportive of me.
I met the woman who I consider my big sister through that kind of network. Her mom is like my other mom and we’ve been raised basically attached at the hip. She’s been the most positive role model I think I could ever have in my life. I have a lot to live up to. I wanted to be just like her when I was little, so in a way, she was like my main community.
So I live with her now. You know, I mean she makes mistakes, but she has taught me to — and my mother, I have to give credit to my mother, and my father — but she has definitely taught me to be the person I am today. She’s taught me to be open, she’s taught me to be an activist, she’s taught me to be a shit starter. She’s taught me to be kind, and she kicks my ass when I’m not and doesn’t let me forget it, which is really good ‘cos I need it sometimes. I need someone to pop me back into line cos I think a lot of people are scared to.
I guess in ways that can hinder me. I’ve always compared myself to her and felt that I needed to be where she was. And she’s six years older than I am — six years life experience more, six years way more therapy, way more schooling, way more relationship experience. I thought that I needed to be where she is, just have my shit all figured out and I don’t, and I’m —
Anna: A baby!
Allie: Yeah, I am, I am a baby, and I, like, wanna be a baby because, I mean, I’m not gonna be a baby forever. It’s all downhill after 22. I guess I’m just learning to let myself off the hook and learning that I don’t need to be where she is right now — nor do I wanna be because the beauty and kind of greatness in life I think comes from the journey.
Produced and facilitated by Sara Hayden
Recorded in Fort Collins, Colo.
Date of recording March 31, 2016
Special thanks to Colorado State University’s Asian Pacific American Cultural Center, GLBTQQA Resource Center, and Asian Pacific American Student Association
Music: “Take Me to Church” (Acoustic Cover) feat. Matt Wright by meganashleydavies
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
Let’s Talk Story is a program where you’re invited to share an anecdote from your lived experiences in the form of a live conversation, short oral history, or written essay. The goal is to keep a record that connects the past to the present, and bring our stories to life. Participate here.