Home vs. School: Smashing the Closet Door

In my last post, I talked about behaving differently depending on circumstance, and considering myself one thing while keeping the flip-side of the coin “closeted”. Now, I’m bringing the issue of the metaphorical closet up once more, this time relating to how it’s been affected in light of my recent move from Harrogate to Knoxville.

For the good majority of my life, I’ve lived in this general area. I grew up in Middlesboro, Kentucky just a drive through a tunnel away, then moved to Harrogate for my middle and high school years. And, of course, I ended up staying in Harrogate for college. I thought that I would be living here until I graduated, but with my family’s move to Knoxville before the start of this semester, things aren’t so simple anymore. When not at school, I’m going home to a completely new area with new people, environments, expectations, and opportunities. Meanwhile, being at LMU in the place where I’ve lived for years sends me back to a familiar environment – almost a comfort zone, if I can call it that. However, my mindset regarding this area and how I interact with it has definitely changed since moving.

LMU has become a “safe zone” for me in this area. For the sake of a nerdy comparison: if my general range of “homes” is an area in an MMO, then the university is my starting zone, a place that I know is safe, familiar, and devoid of monsters. The people here have many different points of view and personalities, but in the end we’re all here for the same purpose: to learn. I feel comfortable revealing parts of myself to them that I wouldn’t ordinarily because diversity is both expected and respected. Others learn from me and I learn from them without being attacked. Here, I can live mostly with the closet door open.

My long-time home, the Harrogate-Middlesboro area outside of LMU, is the “wilds” area right outside the safe starting zone: familiar, navigable, and not incredibly dangerous, but an area that I still have to tread cautiously in. While LMU is full of people that I’ve known only for a couple of years, elsewhere in the surrounding area are people – family, especially – that I’ve been around practically my whole life, or a good portion of it. They’ve come to expect that I behave, look, and be a certain way, and some of these traits they’ve applied to me are vastly different than what I’m like now. I’ve found myself stepping back behind the closet door when in this zone of influence.

The new place where I’ve bound my “teleport home” spell, Knoxville, is the big city at the other end of the wilds. It’s vast, new and exciting, and most of all it’s as anonymous or as personal as I want it to be. This city has so many different areas and niches that I can choose to seek out others or be alone if I wish. I can reveal as much or as little as I want, because for every person that may disapprove of me there are more that won’t. When I was limited to LMU and the Harrogate area, I had only a small spot on the map where I could truly be myself, because everywhere I went I would bump into someone who shouldn’t see me as I am. I had nowhere to hide. In my new home, I have everywhere to hide, and everywhere to not hide as well. I have another and larger “safe zone” to retreat to. Here, I can rip the closet door off of its hinges.

While I had a permanent residence near LMU, I was always careful to keep certain things hidden, especially those things pertaining to my spirituality, romantic orientation, mental state, and other potentially sensitive subjects. This wasn’t because I feared making things more difficult for myself, but because I feared any trouble that it might bring to the people around me. However, as circumstances have changed over time, I’ve become more willing to open up about myself, especially now that I have access to any number of potential communities to connect with in my new home city. Over my next three posts, I’ll be touching on different aspects of myself that I’ve kept closeted for what I feel has been far too long: how I’ve dealt with them in the past, how they’ve affected my interactions and relationships at LMU, and how I’m moving forward in regard to them as I adjust to home life in an urban environment. Feel free to follow my blog to keep up with the rest of the series!

A Closet Extrovert?

During a conversation a while back, a family member of mine said something to me that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since:

“Sure, you may be introverted, Alex, but you’re a closet extrovert. Look at how you act when you’re onstage, or at one of your anime conventions!”

This statement baffled me. I’ve always considered myself a complete and total introvert; if you were to give me a codified personality test like the Meyers-Briggs, I would score as introverted every time. I love alone time and need a lot of it. I’m rarely excited to be around large numbers of people aside from during special events, and on the rare occasion I am around a lot of people for a long time, I have to withdraw immediately to “recharge my batteries”. How on earth was I capable of being extroverted in any way?

Not only was I not sure how I could even be considered extroverted, but didn’t want to be. Once upon a time (and by that I mean only a few years ago), I gloated in my status as a personality type that I mistakenly saw as being a minority, and saw myself in an elitist “I’m a super special delicate and sensitive snowflake and better than you” light. While I’ve since left that mentality behind, and I’m definitely happier for it, I’m still comfortable with my introversion and see it as a simple reality of what I’m like as a person. For someone to suddenly define me as something I’ve never considered myself before was disconcerting, to say the least. Continue reading

Knoxville Anime Day 2015: The More The Merrier

It’s time for yet another installment in my ongoing travels to nerdy events around the area! This one was actually held in my own backyard, or pretty close to it, in the Cedar Bluff area of Knoxville. This tiny one-day convention was actually not on my initial “con schedule” for the 2015 season, and it just goes to show that some of the most fun adventures aren’t always the ones that you plan far in advance! Continue reading

The Adventures of Moving

It’s only three days into my fourth semester at LMU, and I’m already tired. However, this isn’t because any of my very interesting classes are particularly taxing, or because I’m loaded down with extracurricular activities. No, I’m all burnt out from what happened the week before school started: moving.

I didn’t move far away, not at all, and this move actually would have happened over the summer if circumstances would have cooperated a little bit better. My father’s job sometimes requires him to transfer offices and my family to switch locations accordingly, as it did once before when I was still in middle school. This time, his transfer took us a good few miles south of Harrogate to Knoxville, one of the closest cities to LMU. Many of my friends from school live here, as well as some of my extended family, and not to mention friends and acquaintances I met at local anime conventions. I was happy beyond words to find that we were finally moving, and flung myself into the process as soon as I could. Continue reading

“Where The Road Then Takes Me, I Cannot Tell…”

My dear readers, today, I write about a very emotional event, and am very glad that you can’t actually see me crying onto my keyboard.

If there’s anything I’ve associated with the beautiful season of winter over the past three years (besides the usual, like snow, the Solstice, my birthday…), it’s The Hobbit. Specifically, the Peter Jackson movie adaptations of The Hobbit, which have been released every mid-December since 2012, my senior year of high school. It’s gotten to the point where I can hardly imagine December coming without a new Middle-Earth movie…and now, this is the last one. Battle of the Five Armies marks the end of the trilogy, and this will presumably be the last ever live-action adaptation of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth universe as well (we’re running out of books, after all).

This particular chapter of a fandom that I’ve been in for almost a third of my life has come to a close. Continue reading

Yama-Con 2014: The Best of Times, The Busiest of Times

Well, readers, it’s that time of year again – and no, I’m not talking about Christmas! Last weekend, December 5-7, was Yama-Con, Northeast Tennessee’s own anime and comic convention, and definitely one of my favorite conventions that I attend regularly. I’ve been going to Yama-Con for all three years it’s been happening, and have always had a wonderful and memorable time there. This year, however, was a little different: I wouldn’t just be going as a normal attendee, I would actually be working for the convention as a volunteer!

I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew it was going to be awesome. Continue reading

“The Fierce Vexation of a Dream”

Readers, perchance you wonder at this blog, but wonder on ’til truth makes all things plain!

Throughout the entirety of this semester, I’ve had the amazing privilege to be a part of a remarkable theatre production with the LMU Players: William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream! Months of preparation peaked toward the end of November with an open dress rehearsal and a series of four performances. Seeing as I have never acted in any actual productions in my life (I have a feeling church plays I did in elementary school don’t count for much on a theatre resume) this entire process was a completely new experience – and a wonderful adventure of fun and self-discovery as well.

It all started with the LMU Players’ meeting early on in the semester that I attended partially out of curiosity, partially out of the promise of free pizza. There I saw that many of my friends, some from from the Honors Program, and a few new faces from my classes were interested as well, and many of them had been in past productions. When our directors, Hayley Townsend and Professor Mark McGinley, mentioned the possibility of the Players putting on one of Shakespeare’s plays, I knew without a doubt that it was something I wanted to be a part of, if only to give it a shot and broaden my horizons. (And, you know, act in a Shakespearean production!) Soon after the meeting that piqued my interest in auditioning, tryouts for A Midsummer Night’s Dream were announced, and my friend Chelsea and I resolved to audition. Continue reading