My Version of Thailand

My University has a number of international campuses, and I met some of my best friends while spending my junior year in Geneva, Switzerland.  Several of my friends in college studied abroad twice: first in Europe, and then in Thailand.  I missed out on Thailand, but I heard enough about it that I felt as though I had gone myself.

Upon graduation, those friends talked wistfully about moving back to Thailand to kick-start their adult lives, and from there, maybe on to China, Australia, and Botswana.  More than anything, they wanted adventure.  I was horrified.  Not by the international ambitions of my friends, but by the lack of a desire to put down any roots.  I couldn’t wait to feel rooted.  I wanted to start my adult life in a community where I could build friendships that would last a lifetime.  And not just the kind of friends that you email, but the kind who check on you every day as you get up in years.  To me, building a lasting connection with a community was the biggest adventure that I could imagine.

At the time, I figured I would do that in San Francisco.  And after college, my boyfriend and I did move to San Francisco to put down some roots.  As it turned out, he rooted, and I didn’t.  After five years in the Bay Area, I had had it with the homogeneity of the political scene, and the complete lack of thunderstorms.  I tried again by trying to put roots down where I grew up.  In St. Louis.  To me, moving home was the greatest adventure.  It was part time-machine because I was getting back to the places where my ancestors had settled, and part service-mission because there is so much to accomplish  in St. Louis’ civic frontier as compared with San Francisco.  I couldn’t wait to join the already strong movement of nonprofits and individuals making a difference in the social and environmental fabric of St. Louis.

Over the last several years, I have immensely enjoyed working with those nonprofits and individuals.  But something else has been cultivated too.  An intensification of my love of history.  I am a no holds barred social history NERD.  There are, I think, obvious connections between a love of history and a desire to put down roots.  In Missouri, my roots go back more or less 150 years.  I need to check exact numbers with my cousin, but I’m hoping I’ll have plenty of time to do that in the months and years to come.  My family has owned property in the same part of Northern Missouri for the duration of those years.  When I visit the family farm, I feel connected not only to my family, and to the land, but I also feel more in tune with what life might have been like before I was born.  I hope to explore that feeling more in the future as well.

I have always felt that putting down roots was the ultimate adventure.  I can’t say for sure that I will put down permanent roots in the small town to which I am headed.  But I can say that I’m getting closer to my family’s roots, and that takes my adventure of moving home even deeper.  My family farm is my favorite place on earth.  I have dreamed of moving to a smaller community for years.  I can’t think of a better adventure to plan for myself.

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As It Happens

If this were a book, I could look back at this time in my life with sage wisdom and perspective, and explain my actions in a calm and knowing tone.  Better yet, I could put a spin on things and make it look like I knew exactly what I was doing all along.  Or, at least, had the good fortune of sound intuition.

As it stands, however, this is not a book.  It’s a blog.  And you’re along for the ride as it happens, for better or worse.  In truth, my life is a mess, and even I am not certain of my motivations for doing anything any more.  In the book version of this story, I would probably say that I relocated out of my home town because of a job, or because of some great opportunity, or because a dying relative needed my help.  But since this is not a book, you’re getting the truth.  There are a number of motivations for this move, but at the core, I’m not running toward anything.  I’m running away.

Man, is that hard to say.  I’m not without my critics, and I can hear them as I type this.  One isn’t supposed to run away.  It’s the weak and cowardly thing to do.  You’re supposed to stick with it, dig in, work hard.  I’ve been doing those things for months, and it’s been fruitless.  Fruitless, pulpless, seedless, and peeless.  I’m tempted to say that I could keep going, and should.  I know it’s what the critics want to hear.  It’s what my inner critic wants to hear.  But I’m not sure I can keep going like this.  The divorce combined with everything else that’s gone strangely in the last several years, well, has me about a month away from full-on crazy-town-banana-pants.   I need change.  I need adventure.  I need a great escape.  I want to save myself.  The path that lays before me runs straight out of town.  If I don’t follow it, I’m very concerned about what might happen to me.

When a friend suggested the idea for this blog, it really was supposed to be a “rural fantasy.”  Nothing real.  We were chatting over dinner, and I was telling her how intensely I longed to move 150 miles North to my family farm to restore the one room school house on my Grandparents’ property that now belongs to my Uncle.  But I was also telling her how I felt it was unrealistic to do so.  Restoring a one room school house isn’t exactly a money-making endeavor, and I had been looking for work since my divorce a few months earlier.  More on the divorce back story, here.  She suggested that I continue to look for work in our city, St. Louis, but write a blog about the fantasy of starting over near my family farm.  It was a fun prospect, I loved the idea, and I couldn’t wait to get started.

In the following weeks, life in St. Louis got harder.  Rejection was everywhere.  Networking opportunities slipped through my fingers, and a promising interview with a Nationally renowned public relations figure came to an abrupt end when he asked me, “Is your ex husband Royden Aglakti?”  And followed up with, “He’s a friend of mine.”  (That’s not my ex’s real name, so feel free to Google, you’re not going to get anywhere).

My background is in nonprofit administrative support and communications, and in the last five years, I have focused specifically on the local food movement by working with local farmers, community sponsored agriculture programs, urban gardens, and citizens living in food deserts.  I stupidly resigned from all of my paying work (and my second graduate program) when I got married, leaving me jobless after the divorce.  In the months since the divorce I have been interning at two nonprofits, and trying to bulk up my communications skills so that I could work in any organization as a communications officer.  I have been doing a small amount of teaching and tutoring, but the income isn’t anything I could live on.  And I’ve been blasting out resumes and cover letters like my life depends on it (which it does).  My divorce was only just finalized, and I have until the end of the year before my income runs out completely.  While dire, income until the end of the year is income until the end of the year, and I feel that my time is best spent continuing to network my ass off, intern, and work part time until I can’t afford to do it anymore.  If I were unfortunate enough to make it to the end of the year without steady work, I would secure a temp job.

But a shift in my living situation, and increased impatience from my local support network, combined with despondency about what seems to be a hopeless job hunt, has me looking for something else.  Something intangible.  I don’t even know what it is yet.  I will gladly trade my (questionably) budding nonprofit communications career for a job of any kind, as long as it is out of the city, and closer to that one room school house that I can’t stop thinking about.