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NonDoc summer intern Annemarie Cuccia hangs out in the OKC statue by the Wheeler Ferris Wheel in April of 2018. (Provided)

I spent 18 years of my life in the suburban not-quite-perfect bubble of Norman. I knew where to drive down Western Avenue for the best sunsets and which roads were perpetually under construction. I hid in my too-close-to-campus house on game days. I fought with my parents about whether the cat or the dog would come with us to the tornado shelter (as sworn enemies, coexistence was an unachievable dream). When I learned to drive, I unleashed myself on the Oklahoma highways, chaotic despite their emptiness. I knew the land in the way the Oklahomans do. 

Now back in Oklahoma and starting an internship writing about my home state for NonDoc, the path to this stage in my life feels more like a reclamation than a return.

When I was a senior at Norman High School in 2018, I devoted three months of my life to “getting out of Oklahoma” by applying to colleges out of state. At the time, I thought the problem was Oklahoma, though now I’m not sure I could live anywhere 18 years without wanting to leave. When I got the chance to move to the nation’s capital and study international politics at Georgetown University after high school, I had to take it. I did not like the situation in which I was leaving my state; I had just spent two weeks at the State Capitol fighting for my teachers who had given me the chance to leave. But I left anyway.

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I rapidly discovered that only 1,300 miles away, my home was an oddity. I was the first person most people had ever met from Oklahoma. I did not know how to respond when people told me I didn’t “seem like an Oklahoman.” And at the same time, I became known as “the Oklahoman.” I felt the presence of my home state as a familiar ghost I did not want to have exorcised. 

At Georgetown, I started writing for our on-campus news magazine, the Georgetown Voice. Somehow, despite my constant inner tension between a career in policy and an innate desire to create, I had never considered journalism. Suddenly, it was all I thought about.

I began to take on more responsibility at the Voice, becoming features editor, and just a few weeks ago, news editor. I applied to the journalism minor and got in. I loved the way reporting brought me closer to the community and help me understand Georgetown’s complexities in an intimate way.

What was missing

I knew that wherever I may be in the future, I wanted to understand my community this way. But with that realization, I felt a discomfort settle in. I thought I had missed my chance to have this kind of relationship with Oklahoma.  

My life was upended in March, along with everyone else’s. My plans to stay in D.C. no longer made sense. I moved back home, into the purgatory that was not quite Oklahoma, and immediately began looking for ways to write about it. 

Communities have lost so many connections in this crisis. Local journalism, which has always been crucial to telling the stories that matter in daily life, became a force for cohesion even while financial hardships threatened many local papers. 

I cannot think of a better way to rejoin my community than as an intern with NonDoc. I can’t wait to tell stories about everything from the local politics I used to follow so closely to the energy policies I never felt I knew enough about. After two decades of learning to understand this singular place, I finally feel ready to write about it.

And I’m ready to do so in a newsroom full of “the Oklahomans.”