I am a Mocal

by Maren Orchard

MOCALWhen I became a student at Ball State, I learned that I am a Mocal – unflattering slang for a Muncie local. Despite the negative connotation, I’m constantly reassured that I shouldn’t take my designation negatively because I’m a “good Mocal” not one of those “Walmart Mocals.”  The term illustrates an essential difference between populations in Muncie, students who live here to pursue secondary education, and all others who “really” live in and call Muncie home.

I’m Muncie born, raised, and educated—the last of which is frequently met with curiosity. I stayed in Muncie for primarily financial reasons. Like many teens, I found myself wanting to escape my hometown, but I stayed because attending Ball State was cheaper. With time, I’ve come to appreciate the proximity to my family and being able to call the same place home. The Everyday Life in Middletown project has served to introduce me to various perspectives within the community. Some of these are familiar, such as the strong identification with home, but others are less familiar perspectives such as the concern for the racial divisions in Muncie, a topic on which I was ignorant prior to this project.  The juxtaposition of these perspectives from such a variety of individuals has prompted me to further contemplate how we all think about Muncie—a place to escape, a place to call home, a place divided, a place to be with family, a place in need of an aesthetic makeover, a place with potential. Each individual’s daily interaction with Muncie is unique and contributes to their understanding of the space.

I’ve noticed that it’s popular on campus to speak disparagingly about Muncie, and Informant 2 agreed, noting that the thing he dislikes most about Muncie is “the negative attitude that some people have about our community.” I once told a friend at Ball State that I was from Muncie, and he was thoroughly comforted when I explained to him that my parent’s house is north of campus, near the mall. “OH,” he exclaimed in relief, “when you said you were from Muncie I thought you meant like the Southside. It makes sense you’re from northern Muncie.” I chose to pick my battles—I didn’t explain that my mother grew up on the Southside and that several of my family members still reside there. I found it offensive to dismiss an entire region of the city without acknowledging its residents as real people who live, work, and experience everyday life in an area exposed to economic struggle. I’ve had to confront negative opinions concerning Muncie from our own informants. In response to what he liked most about Muncie, Informant 6 voices the popular opinion of many, especially young, Muncie residents, “I really don’t know; there’s not much here… everything you do here is boring.” Confronted by the prompt, “Please close your eyes. When you think of Muncie, what do you see?” Informant 12 responded, “gray slush, sorry,” emphasizing the lack of aesthetic appeal. Informant 4 contributed, “I struggle to find consistent volunteers, board members, and donors for the local non profits I work with, but I can always find someone complaining about Muncie.”  

It’s difficult not to be offended by the remarks students and Muncie residents, including some of our informants make about the place they are living. I often describe Muncie as a city that is “trying”—trying to become more community oriented, trying to get its act together, trying to define itself despite economic and social struggle. When asked what he likes most about Muncie, Informant 4 expressed an opinion similar to my own, “Muncie is my hometown, so I have an embedded loyalty and bias towards it… It has a great deal of potential to create and lead in a way that other towns and cities our size may not have. It has a unique history that sets it apart from other places. It has a great university right in the middle of it. It has river that runs through the heart of it.” I joined this project to contribute to developing an understanding of what Muncie is beneath the potholes, racism, McGalliard, politics, meth houses, Ball State, and the misunderstood Southside, but also encompassing those aspects of everyday life that we interact with as part of the Muncie community.

I identify as a part of Muncie, a citizen responsible for helping to improve my community. I believe in Muncie’s potential and the role of Ball State students in creating a new identity for Muncie alongside the citizens of Muncie because we are all members of this community. We are tied together by our interactions in this space during this time; our everyday lives are unavoidably intertwined. I challenge us all to see the good and to improve the bad in Muncie. I challenge those who say Muncie is boring to volunteer and attend community events. And I encourage us all to accept our status as Mocals with pride.
I am a Mocal.

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