The Sum of 25 Years

As I prepare to move from my home for the last 25 years and two months, I am deeply reflective about what I sacrificed and gained by staying in this little rural bubble for so long.

While I’ve been here, I’ve lost numerous people who I loved deeply, I’ve missed grieving these losses with family and friends. I lost my son’s father to suicide. I still think if I’d moved home or closer to home, I might have been nearby and able to help him through some of his struggles. I lost my great-grandma. I lost my dad too early. Fortunately I was able to be there with family for all of these losses after the fact, grieving with others I love who knew and loved Rick, Grandma, and Dad. My brother took a fall off of a ship he was building, hitting every rung of the ladder thing, hitting his head on many of the rungs on his way down. He could have died and I was unable to be there, to be with family and those who love him most. Thankfully, he is still here with us. I missed the extremely pre-mature birth of my niece and all of her heart surgeries after. I’ve missed the transition of two family members who I love very much and know are not welcomed with open arms with some family as they are with other family members. I’ve missed my mom’s health crises and her grief after my dad’s death. When my great aunt and uncle started significantly declining in health, I didn’t know about it for a little over a year. I’ve missed the aging and health crises of my son’s grandparents, the transitions of friends going through some really difficult things, and so very much more.

I’ve done a lot of growing up, learning, and living in the time I’ve been here. I’ve raised two kids, got married, went through a heinous divorce, completed three degrees, played softball, camped, lived in 12 different places, moved to Virginia and back, had many many jobs, bought and sold two homes, and so much more. I’ve learned about myself, life, and being a parent. And I’ve lost many friends, family, and animals.

I believe everything happens for a reason and in the universe’s time. I have attempted to get back home many times, albeit half heartedly. That story is another blog post. However, I’ve also needed to be here. My grandma needed me as her life transitioned and in her end stages of aging. While stressful and one of the top 5 hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life, I’m deeply honored to have been able to be there for her and do what needed to be done for her in her last years of life. As heroin ran hard through my home area, my kids were here in our little rural bubble somewhat removed from the concerns and difficulties of “big city” living. And I have needed to experience all I have while here because it has shaped me into who I am today and have yet to become.

I think I’ve ben saying goodbye to this place since finishing my bachelor’s degree. I haven’t wanted to be here for a long time. However, I also recognized that I was making a conscious decision to stay here for many reasons. As I recognized this, I set about finding the things that make me grateful for living here. Traffic here is nothing. Rush hour lasts maybe 30 minutes. Yes, we have game days, parent’s weekends, and graduations that make the town swell to impossible proportions but those are a handful of days throughout any year. Because this area is home to two research extensive universities, the number of people with bachelor’s and advanced degrees is significantly disproportionate to, I’m convinced, anywhere else. Many of our k-12 teachers have advanced degrees, as a result, my children had the opportunity to get a strong education in school. Also, because of the two universities, my children have been exposed to leading scholars and thinkers on a range of topics. For example, we have seen Chief Justice Roberts, Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Jesse Jackson, and so many other influential speakers. They have also been exposed to cultural events and art museums. My affiliation with the university has allowed me to take my kids to New York and my youngest to DC, San Diego, Boston, and other cities she wouldn’t have been able to see so early in life without my professional accomplishments. Generally, conversations with many people here are based in reality, use credible evidence to support arguments, arguments are logically constructed, and people who disagree engage in civil debate and discussion.

I love the changing of the seasons here. The change is pronounced and clear. As Spring emerges, the crops start growing. Throughout Spring, the crops grow with wheat stalks reaching toward the sky and waving in the wind like ripples of waves. As the heat of Summer sets in, the winds whip the wheat and the sun aids in drying it out, turning the wheat a beautiful shade of amber. In late summer farmers harvest. There is something so tranquil about watching combines working their way across the acreage, cutting the crops down. Fall turns the leaves shades of crimson, burnt orange, and bright yellows. And the trees prepare to hibernate by dropping their foliage. Winter sometimes comes fast and sometimes slowly creeps in, sometimes its a mild winter with little snow and moderate temperatures (and by moderate, I mean temps stay in the 20s or 30s), or it’s a hard winter where we’re under snow from November through March, buried under a 100 inches of snow for months, or we have ice for months. Then the thaw and the beginning of Spring with flowers poking out to announce their arrival and a new season.

Watching the seasons change on campus is also a favorite thing of mine. The rhythmic hum of a campus becomes predictable and soothing in some ways. In the summer, town clears out and campus slows down. Incoming students come for orientations, different organizations bring high school students to campus – for the state-wide FFA conference, college visits, or competitions, and professional conferences happen as well. As campus readies itself for Fall, the buzz picks up, students move in or move back, town fills up, and life gets busier. The start of Fall is always full of excitement and enthusiasm. By Spring, everyone is in their routine, it doesn’t have the same new fresh energy and excitement as Fall. The Spring energy is more about finishing projects, classes, preparing for graduation. Spring is more serious in tone and tenor and is always a mad dash to the end. There are many spots on campus to watch the seasons change where views of Moscow Mountain, Kamiak Butte, Steptoe Butte, town, and the football stadium can be seen. It’s a good spot to watch the rolling hills of the Palouse change with the seasons – springing to life, changing color, waving in the wind, covered in layers of snow. It really is resplendent.

As much as I’ve wanted to leave this area, I have grown to love aspects of being here. We enjoy relative safety here. Crime is mostly nuisance crime. I think in the time I’ve lived here, I could count the murders using just my fingers and maybe some toes. Back home, I had my fingers filled up by the time I was 21 counting only people I’d known. I can’t tell you how many times one of the kids came home at night and forgot to lock the door or didn’t close it all the way. I’ve woken up in the morning with my door blown open and leaves in the entry. In other areas, I’d have woken up to much more. Having been here for so long, I have known a lot of people over the years and watched a lot of kids grow up. I can’t go out without running into at least one person I know which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because if I haven’t seen someone in a while, I’m bound to run into them while running errands or out and about at some point. A curse because I don’t feel like I can run out to grab toothpaste really quick looking all scruffy. Just the other day, I ran into a kid I’ve known since he was about 8 years old. He was out shopping with his wife, I hadn’t seen him in probably around 10 years. It felt fitting to see him and catch up for a quick minute as I prepare to move.

There is so much I’m going to miss about living here. My people are what I will miss the most. So many people have walked different parts of my journey with me. I’m going to miss the conversations, the connections, the sharing of our lives. I’m going to miss talking with the parents of my kids’ friends and learning about how their children are doing and what they’re going through. I’m going to miss popping in on friends in the College of Education or elsewhere around campus or friends popping in on me to say hi. It is easy to find community here and get involved in the school district, campus, or town activities. I think I’ll miss the sparse traffic perhaps second most.

While I’ve been here, I’ve grown in ways I couldn’t imagine when I first arrived. I’ve been through so much here, raised my family here, and aged here. This move back across the mountains is probably the last major move I make as I am not getting any younger. I know it is a good move, it is what I need personally and professionally right now. I am comfortable with the scope of my new job and sense I am going to an institution that is a much better fit for me, my goals, and my educational philosophy. Like my mom used to tell me when I was anxious, it’s going to be okay. I’m trying to take time to notice, to take in all I can before I leave, to recognize what I’m leaving behind, to feel the feelings. And I’m trying to plan how to stay connected to who and what I do not want to or cannot let go.

To borrow from the Four Non Blondes, twenty-five years and my life is still trying to get up that great big hill of hope, for a destination.

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