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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.

“Two years.”

September 1 was my one-year anniversary in Providence– though I actually spent the day in New York City. When I recently had a two-hour lunch with Curly-Haired Religious Scholar Friend, she remarked “I feel like you’ve been here as long as I have– three years.” I kind of agreed with her.

How long do you have to live somewhere before you can say you’ve lived there? How long do you have to live somewhere before you can move somewhere else and say you’re from when you just came from, or can you never really say that? I used to know a girl who talked about how she “lived” in Washington state and when I asked for how long, she said “5 weeks”; I knew another girl who said she was from Washington state, but then it came out that she had moved to North Dakota when she was three and had never even gone back to visit.

A year doesn’t seem like that long, but it kind of is. If you asked me if I wanted to go to jail for a year, the answer would be a resounding “no”, but part of the reason I moved to a part of the country I’d never even visited before, is because I was fairly sure that I can handle anything for two years. It’s weird because after I had been here a week, it felt like forever, and then time stopped being something I thought about.

So because I’ve been in a listy mood lately, here’s some of the stuff that has happened over the last year:

  • One year of library school is over, my GPA is excellent, and the end is in sight
  • I’ve had three jobs and a long stint of unemployment, which is a lot to cram into one year, I think.
  • I found a wonderful hairdresser who has big plans for my head
  • I found excellent mechanics for both bodywork, and internal car fixings though it is unfortunate that I’ve had to deal with both of those things in just one year.
  • No sales tax on alcohol in Massachusetts!
  • Visited NYC, Boston, Maine. Montreal, etc.
  • Had many superfun adventures including, but not limited to: hiking in purgatory chasm, Moby Dick Marathon at The New Bedford Whaling Museum, Museum of Work and Culture in Historic Woonsocket, Gaspee Days, walking tour of historic churches in Providence, Soundsession etc.
  • Slept on a rock in Central Park and discovered that I can still summon up amazing reserves of stamina when it’s important
  • Finally went to the beach!
  • Painted (or rather, had parents paint), furnished, and decorated my apartment in a way that is very pleasing to me, and didn’t spend much money doing it
  • Free cable!
  • I have the most ridiculous and therefore best Graduate Assistantship ever that not only pays my overpriced tuition, but also a nearly livable wage
  • I’ve eaten lobster, crab, and littlenecks for the first time and almost enjoyed all three though I really don’t get the appeal of littlenecks. They taste like nothing except what you put on them, and have the consistency of extra-slimy hardened rubber cement. So I now know that I dislike them, and I love to have opinions.
  • Finally have quasi-professional job that allows me to wear skirts and dresses as much as I want so I can legitimize buying these items and actually wear them instead of them languishing in the back of my closet
  • I now know what happens at the end of the Babysitter’s Club series: MaryAnne Spier’s historical house with the secret passage used in the Underground Railroad catches fire in the middle of the night. It was later determined to be an electrical fire. Thankfully, everyone gets out safely including her tiger-striped kitten, Tigger, but the house and all of the family’s possessions are completely destroyed. Kristy’s family (her step-father is a millionaire, an actual millionaire!), takes them in while they get back on their feet. Though the situation is a very emotional one, MaryAnne, who is brought to tears by nearly everything, simply cannot cry. How powerful.
  • Found out that Watson (kitty) is asthmatic, which is tragic, but a little bit hilarious since it doesn’t really seem to bother him and he makes the cutest wheezing noises.
  • I finally found the Wal-Mart that is right by my house but I could never see it because it’s behind the giant Home Depot. This is very handy when I need some kind of last minute item that I forget to pick up when I do my other household shopping– cat food, garbage bags– but problematic in that I keep going there all the time and now recognize a lot of the cashiers, but still cannot find my way around the place. Also, I really hate Wal-Mart, but it’s just so handy.
  • Taught screenwriting workshop to teenagers at the library, which made me feel like a bit of a fraud since I haven’t written for the screen in quite a while, but had fun, and they told me that they liked me and learned a lot.
  • Jewish Friend gave me a gunlock, which I have no use for, but is totally hilarious to own, and has taught me a bit more about safety with firearms.

I moved out to Providence with only what fit in my car.  I found out that it would cost $2000 to rent a truck that I wouldn’t be able to drive, and then Jill and I would have to ride in separate vehicles thereby ruining the whole “roadtrip” aspect of the moving.  My stuff was not nice, it was not worth even $500, as I found out when I tried to sell it.  So I arrived in New England with some clothes, cookware, and my cat.  My landlady was nice enough to lend me a bed and TV for the duration of my tenancy, and she gave me a wingback chair.  I figured that I’d just sort out the rest once I got settled.

 When I arrived, landlady’s boyfriend said that he has a couch and table and chairs that I can have, but he has no truck so I’d have to figure something out. I said “yes” I will rent something, no problem.  Then I never heard anything else about it.

 I called and left a message asking if I could still have the stuff; I don’t want to be too pushy since this is a huge favor, but I want to know if I can still have this stuff or if I need to make other arrangements.  Then I called again, and found out that he may have a friend with a truck and he’s trying to sort that out.  That’s cool.

 Meanwhile, my apartment is 1100 square feet, and all I have is a chair and a trunk that is serving as my desk.  I’ve got stacks of stuff to put on the walls, but I don’t want to pounding holes if I need to move it after I get furniture. Sometimes, I move the chair from the sitting room to the living room and work at the kitchen counter so I don’t have to have my laptop on my lap.  A while ago, when I had one of those irritating hangovers where reading hurt and all I wanted was to watch TV and overeat, I dragged my mattress into the sitting room and laid on that all day, then dragged it back to my bedroom when it was time to sleep.

 Then I ran into landlady’s boyfriend on the stairs and he asked, “Do you still want that stuff?  I have a couch, a table and chairs, and I think, like a lamp, maybe an end table.”

 “Yes, I will take whatever you have.  All I have right now is a bed and a chair.”

“Well you got the TV, right?”

“Yes, I have to TV too.”

“You get your cable set up?”

“I don’t need cable.”

There was a long pause as he digested this bit of information, finally, when it got awkward, I threw in, “I have an antenna.”  I’ve only remembered to actually watch TV twice because this is the first time in 3 years that I’ve gotten any channels. I don’t even know what’s on besides the news and Heroes, but I didn’t tell him that.

“Well, then you’re set.  Maybe we can move the stuff on Friday, I’ll let you know.”

Friday has passed, and I’m still without options as to what to sit on.  But I have the TV–so I’m set.  I just don’t get that.  I can’t sit on the TV, I can’t eat off of it, I can’t keep my clothes in it, it doesn’t provide very much light.  I’m glad I have it, I’ve watched lots of DVDs on it, but I’d trade it for a couch.  I’m not trying to be one of those “I don’t need a TV assholes,” like Vincent from Pulp Fiction, but it is clearly a luxury item.  Isn’t it?

 When I told people that I was selling my TV and reluctant to spend money on a new one (I’ve never paid for a TV and I don’t ever want to), they were horrified. More horrified it seems that when I said I wouldn’t have a bed.  Then I’m made to feel extravagant because I have 2 Ipods.  My best friend LeAnn, just moved into a new apartment and had to leave her bed, but took the TV.  She’s sleeping on the floor, but has a TV and DVD player.

 I don’t get it, but at least I’m set.