What no one tells you about the Deep South

After graduating from the University of South Carolina in 2016, I moved across the country, back to my home state of California. I ended up in L.A. against all my expectations (I said I’d never move back to LA unless it was to work with Vivienne Westwood, and then I got an internship at her U.S. office, so you know), and found myself in a city I hadn’t lived in for 16 years.

Overall, Los Angeles is an amazing place, one where anything you need is at your fingertips: snow, flower fields, mountains, the ocean… it’s all here. Not to mention the vegan and vegetarian-friendly food, sunshine, and you know, general liberalness from pretty much everyone. But there’s still a breed of magick I’m in search of here.

Both Columbia, South Carolina (where I went to school) and Johns Creek, Georgia (where I grew up and lived for over a decade) feel worlds away from the fast-paced L.A. life that is now my norm. In many ways, the Deep South was incredibly, incredibly suffocating. Not only literally — hello humidity and mugginess! — but also emotionally. The Deep South is an area that’s years behind in terms of civil rights. And as a Mexican-American, JeWitch (yes Jewish + Witch) woman with eccentric style, it was difficult to live there without feeling like a novelty.

Being any sort of minority in the South is difficult. And while what may come to mind about the South is the fact that South Carolina only took down the confederate flag from the state building a couple years ago, there is an entire piece of the Deep South that’s rarely talked about.

No one tells you it sounds different, or that the trees speak in an ancient language. No one lets you know that the streams sing a different melody or that the thunder doesn't crack like that in other parts. There's a magick here that's been buried in the soil for centuries, but no one tells you that either.

The South is where you know everyone in the coffee shop you pretty much live at. It’s where you can go on the roof of a parking garage at midnight and see the entire city; where you spend hours dancing around, screaming and crying. Sometimes you lose track of time and your car engine dies. The South exists in its own dimension.

There may not be anything cosmopolitan to do on a Saturday night, but you can drive for an hour and stumble upon an old quarry that looks like Mars. You lay here on the warmer days, soaking in the sun with a friend or two. The rest of the world melts away in these moments, when the southern summer captivates you. I’m still searching for this feeling.

The Deep South is where heat lighting in late July illuminates the clouds in the sky with its electricity.

It’s where fireflies remind you of childhood, and that magick isn’t too far away; where a summer storm will leave you drenched in the park, laughing with your best friend.

And what would the world be without Waffle House? The best/worst 24-hour trucker diner that any and every southerner (or “southerner”) will defend until days end. WaHo, as it’s called to those of us in the know, is a blessing. It’s a safe haven for 12th grade girls who have nothing else to do on a Friday night except sit and sip coffee until 1 a.m. The South is the land of sweet tea, where sugar makes everything better and where no celebration is complete without some pecan pie.

And what people do tell you about that southern charm? That’s real, too. If you’re in someone’s home in the South, chances are you will never go hungry. You will be fed until you’re full, and then kicked out with more food for later. But that’s just the South; you watch someone’s back because you’re family.

The Deep South is where you sleep with the sound of crickets, where birds will speak to you at any hour of the day, when there are fields next to mansions, and where football is more important than the Oscars. It’s hard and it can be lonely, but like anywhere, when you have the right people — none of that matters. With the energy and magick of the Deep South and a few good friends, anything is possible.

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