I’m approaching the 2-month mark since moving to Ohio, with little to show for it.
By the time I reached this point in Denver last year, I went on several road trips, live performances, and met so many people Facebook keeps reminding me I friended a year ago. Flash forward 365 days: I’m sitting on the living room floor of my two-bedroom apartment I share with my cat, drinking coffee at 12pm, watching the leaves fall from my window, googling road trip ideas in Ohio, a state I only peripherally knew existed before living here.
There are several differences between now and last year. I’m going to grad school instead of beefing my resume with an unpaid part-time internship; I live by myself in a town where I’m the obvious new kid; my money goes to living expenses and school-related things, and I no longer have a killer part-time second job that lets me read on the clock while also ensuring I have plenty of money for my Nation of One; I’m in a city a quarter of the size of Denver where servers ask if I’m meeting someone later, and then look taken aback when I say I’m here by myself (this could be changed if I were less reclusive and sought companionship more—I’m not yet to the point of full-on friendship, but if you add up my works-in-progress, they equal maybe three whole friends. The point is, I wasn’t expected to change this behavior in Denver).
In summary: Fewer mountains, more questions about my name (which is very exotic here?), and I’m dubbed the eccentric out-of-towner known to YA male fiction writers.
“Why would you move from Denver to here?” I’m asked by everyone, brows furrowed, words soaked in incredulity.
Denver was a temporary stop, my last physical address (and current one, according to my mixed up New Yorker sub. Hope whoever got my magazines by mistake appreciated the fiction sections like they should). My hometown in the Arkansas River Valley is exactly like this city, just displaced by 800 miles to the southwest. Fort Smith, too, is caught in a post-industrial decline, though on a smaller scale, and newcomers are working to revamp the downtown scene into an arts center. There is local history taken for granted, and the kids who grew up there claim there is nothing to do, which is complete bogus. Dayton and Fort Smith are twin cities and they don’t even know it.
Yes, it was—and remains to be—a major adjustment from Denver (the gas is higher here?) and I miss that city differently than I miss home, but just as severely. I miss it because the people of Denver were excited to live in Denver. There was a city-wide pride that I wish I saw in Fort Smith, and what I saw growing when I went back last summer. I don’t see that here.
Perhaps I’m searching in the wrong places. Small town universities aren’t the best place for that (looking at you, students of UAFS). I need to find that inspiration I was so excited to take back to FSM those months ago. Luckily, until I require a second job, I have weekends to spend on small solo adventures, so when I leave I can actually say I’ve been here.
Readers, get ready for a travelogue with mediocre photos.