If you’ve ever grown up primarily in one area, typically, you start to incorporate the culture into your life. The food is standard food, the music is normal sound to you and the everyday words you hear are just that- everyday vocabulary. You grow up in this area, you have a life in this area, but you are human and of course, you want to see what’s out there. You might visit other areas, might even live in other areas, and the standard normal everywhere else becomes the standard normal for you, despite your past normal being from your homeland. You’ll live outside of the world you knew, and the small world you once knew expands into a larger one. If you are an immigrant, an international student, army brat, etc., then you should know the feeling of extraction of culture. The same can be said for religion. If you grew up in the SDA community, your sense of SDA culture is embedding into you. Hearing “happy sabbath!” At least once a week, eating haystacks at least once a month, and having ‘Oceans’ by Hillsong play too many times a year may seem like nothing big, but you might not realize how much you miss it until you lose it. When you branch into a community that isn’t as SDA as maybe the school you grew up in, then you get thrown into a different culture. The “standard normal” for everyone else your age in the area is the one you get accustomed to. You get used to pop music all the time, maybe only being near religion on Saturday’s, you might stop using veggie curse words and switch it out for the real thing. This is the new normal for you and you might not even see it.
I might not like to admit it, but this is something that happens to me often. I have divorced parents, and so I live in a kind of double life. Most of the time I’m with my mom, where I attend an SDA school and live in an SDA community. Then for most breaks, every other weekend, I live with my dad who isn’t religious. I’ll spend weeks, and most of the time a month in the summer with him. This kind of thing doesn’t seem like it affects me until I am three weeks from going to church and a sense of emptiness comes to me. I can’t pinpoint what that emptiness is, until some instances where I’ll be on YouTube and I see someone do a cover of ‘Oceans’ by Hillsong. It’s kind of like a shock that runs through my body, where I realize where my emptiness came from. When you are in a foreign land that soon becomes a familiar land, you might not realize what’s missing until weeks later when you’re walking down the street and you smell something that smells like the food you once used to eat every day- your “standard normal” food that you’ve been without for a while. When listening to the cover of ‘Oceans’, it’s almost like I got a piece of my homeland, the place that my body knows more than I know anything else. And because I was far away from it, I got to really sit and appreciate how beautiful the song really is, and how beautiful my religious community is. Your foreign land might become your new life, but your body doesn’t forget where it came from. Religion and my SDA community might be something I take granted of, without even realizing it. When I’m away from my community, I slowly forget the haystacks and the ‘sorry my mom says only after sundown’ and the Good Good Father, and then comes the instance where I remember. When I come back, I am home. Religion is my home. To have this kind of culture is one that so many won’t admit they can’t live without, yet that sense of emptiness can be ruthless. But, I am here to say to embrace it, take the piece of home with you when you go, and keep yourself remembering where you come from. That deep sense of homesick never leaves you.
Savannah, a sophomore in high school