“This isn’t heaven, it’s Iowa,” read the Snapchat filter when my plane landed two weeks ago. It’s a nice sentiment, although looking deeper into that phrase can be a wee bit problematic. I’d tend to agree with it—I prefer to think that heaven is devoid of muggy, ninety-degree weeks and hordes of drunk frat boys.
Part of me warned, early on, against becoming too attached to this place. A place is, after all, just a place. I knew I would only have four years here, and, by the way, I had a gorgeous city like Seattle to come home to.
If you’re new here, you should probably know that I just completed a semester in Scotland. This is important to know because a) it is relevant to this blog post and b) I will probably never shut up about it for the rest of my life. The point is, in my third year of college, I made the move across an ocean to a place I’d only seen in pictures. Part of me thought, “Why are you doing this to yourself? You have stable friends, stable activities, stable residency in Iowa City.” But the appeal of starting over, starting fresh, was also scarily tantalizing.
When I returned to Iowa two weeks ago after that semester, standing at the cusp of my fourth and final year, I found, unexpectedly, that the same feeling overtook me. After being gone from the city for nine months, after exploring the Scottish countryside and working a summer at a frighteningly professional job, Iowa City was new again. In my last year, I’m still starting over. I don’t think we ever really stop starting over.
Being here and re-discovering this Iowa life has taken me back to that first time I stepped off the plane, eager but anxious.
Two weeks ago, the cornfields were raked orange and yellow, a sunset guiding me home. Everything quintessentially Iowa wrapped up in a drive from the airport–I could practically smell the sun-baked earth and humidity.
These two weeks have been full of these images, these reminisces. They’ve also been full of surprises, bittersweet confusion. The construction that we’d so heartily complained about is gone–giving way to a refurbished basement to the student union and an entirely new residence hall–but part of me feels the absence of those grievances a little too much. There is a gap in the transition from fond complaining to new convenience. Everyone is already over the novelty of these new buildings. Everyone has already started treating them as normal, while I still wander the new halls and wonder when so much change happened.
Classes, too, are different than those in Scotland, and while I’m starting to unearth the plow-tracks of my old Iowa routine, the practice feels hollowly uncharted.
I could go on: friends, activities, and traditions seem to be rediscovering me just as I’m rediscovering them. I never imagined that in my final year of college, I would be introducing myself to new roommates and auditioning in front of panels of people I barely recognized. I’m still learning, even as I watch thousands of people in gold shirts roaming the ped mall after a football game, welcoming me home.
Like I said, we never stop starting over. I know that in May, I will have to do it again; I will have to leave this place I’m beginning to call home again and fit myself into a new identity as a post-graduate. But that is still eight months away. For now, let me walk old paths and lose myself in remembering. Even more, let me walk new ones, and give me time to re-carve my name into this changing world.