Sunday, August 24, 2014

This Place Called Kansas

August 20, 2014

I’m a couple of weeks late, but earlier this month marked 8 years that I have lived in Kansas.

I’ve had those moments:
“Oh, man! I wish Facebook was a thing when I moved into my dorm!”
“I wish we had taken pictures!" (too bad my family didn’t have a digital camera yet.)
“I wonder what my freshman class’ hashtag would have been.”

Sigh.  Anyway. Then I get over it (my thoughts on technology and social media belong in a WHOLE 'nother category).

A paragraph's worth of backstory: I moved to Kansas after being recruited for the track and field and cross-country teams for Bethany College, a private college in Lindsborg, Kansas.  I left the desert Southwest of Arizona, my childhood, and everything I’d ever known behind, hopped into my mom’s minivan, opened the Road Atlas so I could follow along, and got comfortable in my seat.
(My teammate from high school was recruited after I enrolled and signed my Letter of Intent; I gave the coaches a heads-up about her, she decided she was going with me, so we stuffed our clothes and bedding into the back of the minivan.  Neither one of us owned winter clothing or coats yet; we figured we’d worry about that when we got there.)

I’ve got a LOT of feelings (surprise, surprise) about the actual move itself: facing the fear of moving to an unknown place with no friends or family waiting there to welcome me; to a place with a totally different climate and culture and food and people, and how much I’ve grown as a result.  I’ve got tons of memories of my first semester, my second year, each year for that matter, which I want to put down on paper sometime soon.  Sure, I’ve got advice for out-of-state students, words of wisdom on how to stick it out until graduation, but I’m not sure that was the purpose of my writing for today.

My point today is that, 8 years later, I’m still here.  This place called Kansas has morphed from “the place I went away to college”, from “I’m just here to go to school”, from “Yeah, I could never be here forever” to “home”.

This place called Kansas introduced me to the concept of hospitality; from the team of Resident Assistants who helped us unload the minivan (Darcy, Michelle, and others), to the family who had me under their wing that first semester (Ben Mordecai and family—if you see this, know that I am eternally grateful).  I was hospitalized for a few days with mono and pneumonia, and this family took turns sitting vigil in my hospital room.  I don’t think I was alone for more than hour at a time.  (I seriously could write a small book just on the hospitality from this family alone)

This place called Kansas gave me permission to start over.  I could be whoever I wanted to be here.  Aside from my academics, athletics and music, high school wasn’t the greatest experience for me, and it was amazing to come here and just be accepted (Okay, so basically, I’ve just
always had social difficulties, okay? Let’s reword the previous sentence to read, “People were HARD in high school.”)

This place called Kansas has taught me how to make friends.  Real friends. I’ve figured everything out about myself here, while trudging through these thunderstorm-y summers and frozen tundra winters.  These days, I sit with trusted friends and have real conversations about figuring out our futures and planning our next steps.  If I had up and left after graduation, I would have missed out on these dear friendships.

I’m still here because this is where my journey has led me.  There are things I miss about my native Arizona, yes. But do I consider going back? Hardly.  Honestly, I’m so into my life and community here that I just go day-by-day.

I’ve fallen in love with wheat fields, summer rodeos, rolling hills, and greenery!  Don’t even get me started on sunflowers or back dirt roads.  I have mastered the art of carefully watching for deer while I drive, especially in the autumn and winter evenings. I am captivated by the change of the seasons, and anticipate the differences each one has to offer.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever leave, if I’m just letting myself get comfortable and settled for fear of picking up and moving yet again to another, new place.  I wonder if I’m scared.  Yeah.  I think I am scared.

But this place called Kansas has taught me that without an initial sense of fear, there’s no adventure.

At this point, leaving Kansas would feel like leaving home all over again.  I don't know what the future holds, but for now I guess I drank the Kansas Kool-Aid.  I used to hate the thought of "being here forever"; I was convinced that the week after my college graduation, I would be moving either back to Arizona or one of the other two completely different states I applied to medical schools in.

I kind of like how my story has turned out, though.  (Thanks to the Big Man upstairs, by the way!)

So thus begins Year Nine!