The biggest fear of most younger Delawareans is being trapped. As we attend our high school sporting events, we look on at the born-and-raised Delawareans attending in support of their alma mater. And we silently think to ourselves, “please God don’t let that be me”. The person hanging around like they never graduated. Like Delaware had caught a hold of them and never let them go.
The minute we get the opportunity, we flee from Delaware. Many of us don’t get the chance, but we watch the odd few that do. I’d gotten my acceptance letter from the University of Delaware and decided that even with offers from schools out of state, UD was the best option financially. I fondly remember that right before I chose the school I would go to, I had a dream that I ended up at the University of Delaware. And then I woke up and proceeded to bawl my eyes out. “Please not Delaware”, I pleaded to the Universe. If I don’t get out of here now, I’ll be trapped here.” That’s the thing, a lot of us believed that. That the small window we had was undergrad, and if you didn’t leave by the time you were around 18-20, you were stuck. I didn’t leave Delaware in an official capacity until recently to attend graduate school in New Jersey. And it’s the funniest thing, I can’t seem to stop talking about Delaware now that I’ve left.
I first noticed it when someone asked me if New Jersey was anything like Delaware, since the two states were only two hours apart. I shocked myself with my response, “There’s no place on Earth like Delaware.” To the eyes of someone from the deep south, Delaware and New Jersey seemed similar. To provide my friend with some nuance, I decided—proudly so—to show them my home state. I didn’t realize I was capable of having pride in my home state until I found myself getting defensive when my friend compared Delaware to other states. “Oh, this reminds me of South Carolina,” they commented as we drove through Harrington on the way to Greenwood. I raised my nose at the comparison.
I noticed it again when I sat at Long Branch Beach in New Jersey. A group of friends and I had stayed on the beach through sunset, and I noticed that the beach was littered with trash that people had left. My native New Jersey friends started cleaning, and I asked them if this happened often, the littering. They commented yes and continued on to clean. My first response? “Wow, this never happens in Delaware”. For the most part, it seems instinctual for Delawareans to keep our beaches tidy. They’re our pride and joy.
After some more thorough reflection, I realized I compared so many of my experiences in Delaware to the ones in New Jersey. And about nine times out of ten, I preferred the Delaware ones. I’d always reference anything new to Delaware. “Well in Delaware, we have this thing called…”, “You call this a state fair? In Delaware, we…” And so on. In all my years on this Earth (which are not that many, mind you), I never thought I’d make so many references to Delaware. It’s like no matter where I go, I’m always reminded of home.
Maybe there’s something to be said about home being where the heart is. For me, my heart is Delaware. Maybe that’s something only a Delawarean can speak to, but I’d like to think it’s a little more than that. Rather than running away from home—only to realize that home is preferred—maybe we should change our perspective of what our home is and can be. Rather than being so desperate to leave our home and then fondly missing it, maybe we should build that home up so that we never want to leave in the first place.
After overcoming the initial shock, I found myself re-evaluating my home state as well as my perceptions of it
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