By Abby Granata |

Mom . . . Dad . . . There’s something I need to tell you.

I’m not exactly sure how to say it, but I’ve wanted to talk to you about this for a long time. I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to figure out who I am and I don’t want to lie anymore. I wanted to tell you sooner, but I was afraid of how you both would react. Even though we may love different kinds of people, I hope you can accept me.

I’ve been experimenting at college and . . .

I think I’m a liberal.

In all seriousness, this political awakening doesn’t have nearly the same amount of gravity as coming out. However, in a similar way, I have undergone a process of self-evaluation and exploration during my recent move from central New Jersey to a Baptist university in Waco, Texas.

Believe it or not, the “Baylor bubble” has more diversity than I would have expected, and after a bit of adjustment and culture shock, I have been forced to confront beliefs that both amaze and alarm me.

I am fortunate that I started college during midterm elections, as this Senate race proved to be a milestone for not only Texas, but also myself. As someone who avoided the news, I never had a stake in politics until I couldn’t escape it. After some obligatory research, Beto O’Rourke surprisingly became the first politician I felt like I had a connection to and a reason to care about our country.

My roommate, a daughter of two Lebanese immigrants, initially introduced me to his policies and spoke intelligently and compassionately about his stance on immigration. She exposed me to certain struggles her family and other immigrants alike face on a daily basis, including being treated as a national threat.

This conversation continued in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core (BIC) as professors lectured about the necessity of immigrants in Houston’s economy and the harmful misunderstanding of Islam in the United States.

It was in these moments of honesty, education and vulnerability that I recognized my privilege and attempted to apply some empathy to a subject I previously only saw as a hot-button political debate that was somehow detached from humanity.

However, I am well aware that a large portion of the student body did not have the same response as I did. “BETO IS A BABY KILLER” was plastered on the sidewalks in chalk on Election Day. A BIC classmate said he “felt bad” for the “misled” Hindus who worship their deities after a field trip to a temple. An organization hosted a speaker who unapologetically opposes gay and women’s rights. They even advertised for this event with flyers that equated the LGBTQ+ community with communist regimes.

While the disheartening announcement and promotion of this lecture led me close to tears, so did the overwhelming amount of backlash surrounding it. In a community I falsely generalized for having a lack of acceptance, thousands of students, alumni and professors banded together to sign a petition to allow LGBTQ+ organizations on campus.

Although it is easy to get furious and frustrated and write off every member of the Baylor community as an unwaveringly devout and prejudiced Christian, it is through these moments that I have actually found hope and an agent for conversation and change.

Coming from the East Coast to the “Bible Belt,” I never would have expected my beliefs to broaden so greatly. Regardless of political affiliation, I have encountered individuals that have educated me and ideas that have challenged me; that, in my opinion, is the true purpose of a college education.

And no, you will not see me wearing knitted hats of female genitalia or spending every waking moment condemning our current president to anyone who will listen. Instead, I am proud to say that I have adopted more independence, acceptance and an investment in our nation’s future— something all Americans could benefit from.