Being from southern West Virginia, a republican’s utopia, not only was my family predominately republican, so was everyone around me. My friends, my friends’ families, my teachers, my neighbors; just about everyone was a republican. I grew up listening to Fox News, shot a gun before I could drive, thought “feminism” was a cuss word, and was taught that anyone labeled as a “Democrat” was deemed worse than those with the scarlet letter.

As a child, I believed everything my family had told me- especially about politics. I disliked the same people they did and held the same views as the people around me. My younger self-wanted to be exactly like my parents, especially in my political stance. I listened to my entire environment bash democrats my entire life, and I thought, “Wow, democrats must be terrible people”.

Once I began to grow and develop my own feelings and values, I realized how different my opinions were as opposed to my family. Although I had different beliefs than my family, I still labeled myself as a republican, because, let’s be honest: I had no idea what the differences between the two were. I just knew not to be a democrat.

1. It was difficult finding an unbiased opinion on democrats.

In my 11th grade AP U.S. History class, I was first introduced to unbiased politics, and that was when I first realized something: I was not a republican. I had never been a republican. I learned about the feminist movement. I knew I wanted to grow up with the same opportunities as my male peers, and I wanted to be treated equally in this world: I labeled myself as a feminist. That is when my views started to differ considerably from my family. I support Roe vs. Wade, and my stance as pro-choice is one of my most-valued belief. My family, on the other hand, is extremely “pro-life”, and is against Planned Parenthood and women getting abortions.

That class really opened my eyes to the world around me. I learned how important our environment was, and how desperately I wanted to keep it healthy. I am against the use of fossil fuels (yes, including coal), which vastly differs from 99% of the people around me, specifically my family. I learned about how the parties have changed over the years, and which party more represented my views.The different types of economics (and which type I believed worked for our country). The racial feuds and biases our country has. The LGBTQ community and their mistreatment. The gun laws of this country. As my views started to shift towards liberalism, my family grew more and more conservatism.

2. I had to learn to keep my views and opinions to myself.

The subject of politics has been banned from the dinner table. I personally get worked up when we start arguing over our views – so most of the time we just avoid the whole subject. I know their views. They know my views. Although they are completely different, we respect each other’s opinions and don’t want to make each other upset. We know that no matter how many times we fight over the same topics, neither of our minds is going to change, and we just end up hurting each other’s feelings. The best thing for us is to just avoid the entire situation and just enjoy each other’s presence, without politics.

3. Family dinners are… interesting.

Although my close family agrees to avoid politics, the more distant family members do not. I tried to keep my political stance to myself, but once they saw my “Bernie 2016” sticker on the back of my car, I couldn’t hide it anymore. I was called a crybaby liberal, someone looking for a safe space, a snowflake, a communist, a socialist, a hippie, and uneducated, all while waiting for my Thanksgiving mashed potatoes and broccoli casserole. I’ve been told that when I get a “real job” I will “come to my senses” and switch to the Republican Party. With the recent election year, my relationship with my more distant family was more intense. All of us fought over who would take better care of our country. We hid our distaste in each other’s values with our eyes deeply buried in our dinner plates. Despite the bickering, we all gather around the piano, listen to my uncle play Christmas music, and enjoy each other’s company. At the end of the day, we all still love each other and wish each other “Happy Holidays” as they leave.

4. No matter what, I know my family loves me and supports me - despite all of the picking.

When I first started caring about politics, I thought conservatives and liberals couldn’t coexist happily. However, I feel like I am a first-hand example of this not being true. My family and I love each other, and support each other. My parents were happy for me when I got to see Bernie Sanders in person, and when I decided to express myself in a new and different way. My family always has and always will love me and support me, even if we have different political stances. I used to believe that I could never surround myself with conservatives, but now I know that I was wrong. I have always had republicans in my life, I will always have republicans in my life, and I will always love them as my family.