toggle navigation

The Long Way Around

September 1, 2009
Leavenworth, Kansas circa 1800’s-Courtesy of the Command General Staff College  of Ft. Leavenworth

Leavenworth, Kansas circa 1800’s-Courtesy of the Command General Staff College of Ft. Leavenworth

When we visited Vancouver earlier this summer there was a chatty store owner talking to my mom, sister and I while we were shopping. She couldn’t fully comprehend how my sister could live in Maryland (she’s since moved to California), my mom in Kansas, and me in Georgia. None of it made sense to her. She kept asking why we didn’t live near each other–we all sort of struggled with an answer, but the easiest one was because of work. Which is true, but only partly.

There is something to be said about small towns. A quaint Main Street with boutiques, a past rich in history, where everyone knows your story. Leavenworth, Kansas, for me, is that place. Although we moved around quite a bit growing up, Leavenworth is (and likely will always be) home. It’s where my parents chose to set roots–where I attended school off of a military post for the first time, where I graduated high school, where friends I have known the longest live, and where my mother still is (with my brother and his family not too far either).

One of the oldest themes in everything from movies to music is the idea of leaving home. You know, putting the past town behind and starting fresh, in a new city. I did that. I left home almost a decade ago at 23 and haven’t returned much besides holiday visits and the occasional baby shower, hometown wedding, or milestone birthday celebration. I left my small town in Kansas in my rear view mirror for a job, which I’ve since also put in the rear view.

And while I look at my Leavenworth with fondness, I do feel a teeter-totter emotion of extreme complacency when I visit. When I go home I see the small town sadness and a desperation that is just not present in my life in Atlanta. Once I arrived here, I quickly came to the realization that I was a very small fish in a very large pond, especially compared to where I came from. I was nervous, scared shitless, excited and totally unprepared for the whirlwind of a life I would have here, those first few years.

Atlanta 1933-Courtesy of Atlanta Time Machine

Atlanta 1933-Courtesy of Atlanta Time Machine

I remember thinking about week one here, “Now, that wasn’t so hard, leaving home. That wasn’t so hard at all.” I was so incredibly naïve, but I find myself sometimes wishing for that naivety back–the one in wonder with the new world around her. The bustling newsroom loaded with talent I admired and wanted to emulate. The new friends with cool pasts and parents with jobs and degrees I’d never heard of.

It didn’t take me long to realize, it’s one of the toughest things to leave those comforts in search of self. From insuring my own car, to signing up for a matched 401K plan, to balancing my checkbook, to working overnight shifts, meeting new people, and just trying to make it, none of it was easy. Within the first few months of here I literally passed out from being both overworked and overwhelmed. But here, I had room to pick myself up and walk again, without anyone holding me up. A lesson everyone, I think, needs at some point in his or her life.

But sometimes I wonder what my world would’ve been like if I would’ve stayed. It needs to be said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Leavenworth, Kansas (or any of those teeny places any of us are from). The support of longtime friends, and of course, the ever-present family, would mean such a different life entirely.

Atlanta has brought me many things, including a new life I didn’t have before moving here. It’s brought me a husband and friends who are similar to myself, but it’s an incredibly transient city, not many people are from here, and those who are, let’s just say it’s a tight-knit group that doesn’t bend over backwards for outsiders.  It took us years to find a core set of friends that we consider family.

But, it’s hard finding where you fit in. The balance of comforts of what was home and what now is considered home. Especially when you’re such a different person than the one you left there.

For now, this is my home. Our home. Who can predict if it will always be so. That’s too much to try to guess.

And no matter what path you choose, staying put or venturing out, none of it is easy. I’ve come to accept that I’m not that girl from Kansas any longer. That’s not my story anymore. It will always be a part of me, but only just a part.