Fall in the Ozarks is a glorious time. On a sunny, blue-skied day, even the most skeptical among us probably believe in some form of higher power, because it’s just inspiring to imagine that the fiery reds and yellows and oranges result from the sweep of a divine brush over the landscape.
And then you have days like today, when those same bold, triumphant colors compete with the gray of a cloudy/rainy sky. Today, I find those trees and their brash pop of color are speaking directly to my heart.
Today, I was offered and accepted a new job. In Boston.
There is a leap of joy and bright color in my heart as I type that. And yet, it also feels like I’m leaping against a gray sky, a sky that symbolizes the sadness at leaving behind what has come to be safe, warm and familiar.
I’ll blog more about the job later on, because right now, that’s not what’s on my mind. Yes, it great to know that I am still an employable human, and I am thrilled and charged up about the mission of my soon to be employers. And I’m going to BOSTON! But right now, I am thinking about my eight years in Arkansas.
Those first days, when my midwestern and northeastern friends would say “you’re moving where?” and I would defend the decision, but secretly, in my heart, wonder if they were right in their skepticism.
Those first months, when I was welcomed with Buffalo River floating trips and 100 degree days and the standard “oh, you’re from up north? But you like it here, right?” Yes, I would say, and mean it, sometimes to my surprise.
Those first few years, when I had to figure out if I could fit in here, me with my single, Yankee, churchless ways. When I started to really feel like I could make a difference.
The middle years, when I wondered what was next, felt a little restless, and yet somehow found myself determined to stay, to make my mark, to be a part of this vital, growing, contradictory place.
And the last few years, when I began to seriously consider leaving, but always with a pang of regret that drowned out my wanderlust, until this past summer when circumstances contrived to say “It’s time to go.”
So I am going. And while I still feel the gaps in my life that make leaving my best choice, I know there will be other gaps that open up when I go. I will miss my people, my drive to work, my walks to the dog park, my frustration with regional politics, my inherited pride in this place that is, without qualification, a REMARKABLE place to live and work.
Today, I chatted with a friend who is also (sort of) leaving, and she said the most intriguing thing. She said “You know what is awesome? A company in Boston is hiring someone from Arkansas.” I have never, in all my time here, considered myself “from” Arkansas. That privilege seemed reserved for those who have been here far, far long than I. But 8 years of my life have been shaped by this place, and I am…I guess this is the right word…honored that I will get to take all that I have learned and been given back to the Northeast. I am a vastly different person since the last time I lived in New England, and I am a better person because of the people and values I learned here.
So yes, I’m shipping up to Boston, but I am bringing Arkansas along in my heart. I’m not going to stop saying “y’all”, and I’m going to remember that sometimes snark isn’t the right answer to a thorny problem. And yes, despite my best efforts to remain immune, I will probably pay a little more attention to the SEC.
For my first few years here, I compared glorious autumns like this to New England autumns, which are also spectacular. Somewhere along the way, I began to accept Ozark fall as the standard, and now, heading north, I will be comparing foliage in the other direction. I guess that’s just life imitating nature, seasons following seasons, change always pushing us to whatever comes next.