I was the last of my really close friends to finally leave Fargo. My group of oldest friends left right after college, and I stuck around for grad school, and then the rest kind of them trickled slowly away. I kept thinking that I would leave immediately after grad school, but I had neither a job nor a plan, and so I lingered for another year and a half saving money and making new friends.
It was an odd position to be in because I was ready to leave, but I had to bide my time since I still wasn’t sure exactly where I would wind up and what I would do when I got there. I felt a little bit embarrassed because among the friends of mine who wanted to leave, I was the last, and that made me feel unambitious in a way. People remarked over and over how they figured I would be the first one to bolt after college, and how weird it was that I stayed. Was I all talk? Would I never finally strike out on my own? Were the visions I’d had in my head of me bouncing from city to city living life to the fullest not something I actually had the guts to do?
Also, there was recently an article in the New York Times entitled Towns They Don’t Want to Leave, which highlights the five college towns that have the highest percentage of graduates remaining there after finishing school, number two is Providence, number four is Fargo– seriously, what are the odds? I’m not saying the New York Times will influence whether I stay in Providence or not, but it’s a bit spooky.
I’ve been in Providence a year now, and I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends, but most of us are students and will have to leave to get real jobs. I actually really like it here and could see myself staying for a while longer, but again, what if I stay primarily because I like my friends, and then they all leave? I really like Providence as a city, but just like I’d been wrestling with the entire time I was trying to decide where to move: do I really know any better? I’ve lived a lot of places, probably more than most, but I’ve lived in very few cities, and the fact that I found one I like right away, makes me feel like I can really be happy anywhere.
When I was in sixth grade, I was pretty miserable. My family had moved about five times at that point, but I had been with the same peer group since kindergarten. I lived in a very small town, and my dad was the High School principal, which meant that people much older than me knew who I was, and I had no clue why they hated me. I was tired of all of my friends and their interests that didn’t link up with mine; I was ready for a change. When my mother told me that they were seriously considering moving, I actually cried because I was so relieved. I had done all I could do in Hallock, MN and I was ready for a change.
I very much have a tendency to hang onto things until I’m ready to leave them, jobs, towns, etc. I didn’t feel very sad to leave Fargo because I wasn’t appreciating anything about it anymore, I just saw it as a place to get away from. Leaving my job at Fargo Public Library was actually the hardest thing, because I didn’t hate it and I’ve never left a job without hating it.
I also don’t hate Providence, but I may have to leave, and that might make it really hard. I like the idea of being a nomad because one of my biggest fears is complacency, but I don’t quite know what to do with actual contentment. What if you are somewhere, and you like it, and all of the professional opportunities you need are at your fingertips– that is what I can’t fathom. What makes a life? What makes a person say “I’m really happy with my life”? That statement always sounds like a death knell for me, but it seems like a very nice thing to say.
I was talking to a friend last weekend about these thoughts I’ve been having.
“So you’re done in May, and then you move– wherever?” he asked.
“Yeah, except back to the Midwest, but yeah.”
“That’s sucks, man, it would be weird not to have you around.” We sat for a beat, taking this all in.
“Well, when are you leaving?” I asked him.