Three years ago next week I moved to Columbia, Missouri, to begin work on a PhD. Immediately I didn't like it. I missed ACC sports. The Midwest was vastly different from the Southeast where I grew up. Sweet tea was not readily available. I didn't know anyone. My family was 850 miles away. I began to notice that I was going whole days without speaking to anyone... well, anyone except the poor clerk at the store who got my life story when she asked "how are you today?" There were many evenings spent wondering "What am I doing" or "how I could give up friends and family for this?"
Less than a month after I got to Columbia I had pretty tremendous back pain, ended up in surgery and, amazingly, friends sprouted up around me like Forsythia blooms signaling the end of winter. I suddenly had a network of supporters who rallied around me. They cooked, they doggysat, they allowed me to live with them (Thanks Amy), they packed/moved everything I owned in an afternoon, they covered my classes, they even tied my shoes (thanks again Amy). From that moment on... Columbia was home. Friends started sprouting up in ANOVA class, at church, and around the office.
Fast forward 3 years and the sadness I feel at leaving Columbia is hard to describe. In my head I know it would not be the same, even if I stayed, because Columbia was never intended to be my home. It was intended to be a stop along the journey to teach me not only academic but life lessons. I have made some great friends in Columbia. (Ironically, many of them are not there anymore either or won't be there in another year or two.)
I have learned a lot about myself and those hard learned lessons from Columbia have made the move to Corvallis a little smoother. I still think I have gone about 48 without talking to anyone (except those poor store clerks), but I know that means it's time to put in a call to family and friends (and hope they call me sometimes, too). I don't want to have another back surgery to find my Corvallis family. I know I just have to be patient and I will find them, just below the snowy surface, waiting to bloom.