Those of you who have been following my blog for a while may know that this has been a year not only full of travel, but also full of trying to figure out where to settle down–if not for the rest of my life, then at least for the next ‘phase,’ the next few years or so. It’s been something of an agonizing journey, but I finally may know what I’m doing.
After my trip to New England in October, I rather fell in love with New Hampshire. So much so that a couple weeks later, I drove out there for a few days to look for apartments. I didn’t have any luck, but I figured I might have a better chance after the holidays. Still, I was very disappointed and discouraged, and wondered if I was on the wrong track.
What I wanted was a place with beautiful natural landscapes (and not in the Midwest), but close to “civilized” features like movie theaters or museums, that was inexpensive enough to allow for travel and other adventures and where I could afford to live by myself and keep pets, where I could find a good church and establish community. Very recently I began to realize that a place exactly like what I was looking for … doesn’t exist (probably).
Last week, for the first time ever, I started to seriously consider moving back to my hometown in Northwest Ohio. Where I am now, in Northeast Ohio (a place I have always hated, so it was always going to be temporary), I don’t have a lot of community. I am going to a church that is okay and I have a couple high-school friends in the general area, but that’s about it.
I have begun to realize that having a community, a church, and some of “my” people nearby is more important to me than I originally thought. If I moved back to my hometown, I wouldn’t have to build it all from scratch. My dad and stepmom live here, as do one of my stepsisters and her husband and kids, and most of my mom’s side of the family (including my grandma and an aunt and uncle). I have other extended family (including favorite cousins) about an hour away in one direction, and close college friends about an hour away in the other direction. There are also several church possibilities.
Living in N.H. would be almost prohibitively expensive. And even though I would be within easy access of awesome hiking and camping areas, I might not have time to enjoy them because I will be so busy also working and getting acquainted with the area and trying to meet people. Which, by the way, caused me some really bad burnout in Columbus.
The main thing that has held me back from this decision is pride. Popular opinion does not consider Ohio a cool, hip place to live. And after the mountains of Montana, the coast of Maine, and the forests of Oregon, I have been rather spoiled. My education and my travels have made me feel like I’m too “good” to live in the Midwest, and to stay here feels like a kind of failure. I know that’s really stupid–I didn’t even go to college in Ohio, I lived in the D.C. area for several years, and I have traveled all around the country and several places outside of it, so it’s not like I’ve never known anything but Ohio. Also, as people have pointed out, I wouldn’t be signing my life away by living in NW Ohio. I could move again (ugh) if I found an even better option. At church last week, I started thinking, “Who are you, to think you’re too good to come back? You’ve already had so many opportunities that other people don’t have. You’ve traveled to places and seen things that many people haven’t. That doesn’t mean you have to live in them. You should be thankful just to have been able to do what you’ve already done.”
The thing is, I don’t actually dislike my hometown. It still feels like home. I know and love a lot of people here. There are cultural things like lectures, the symphony, museums, shopping, and theater. I might be able to find another, part-time job if I wanted, or volunteer opportunities. Decent housing is pretty inexpensive, and I could afford to travel to places like New Hampshire or Montana if I am really desperate for some exceptional hiking. Or I could drive into Michigan. There is easy access to multiple highways (it’s a very easy drive to Chicago, one of my favorite cities) and international airports.
For months now, the idea of moving back to my hometown was never even an option. Now that it has suddenly emerged as not only an option, but possibly the most viable option, it’s been a struggle to process this and wrap my head around it. It is so far from what I had expected, that I’m going, “No, this can’t be right, this can’t be what everything has been leading up to, can it?” But I think it is, at least for now. And so far my family has been supportive. I was telling people about it at Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, and most of them are glad I’ll be closer, yay. And so far among my friends, most of them understand what has led me to this point.
So there you have it, the results of almost a year of exploration, prayer, and tears. I can’t even imagine what is going to happen next year.