After a whirlwind tour of three states in one week, I’m back and settled in Des Moines, Iowa. I slept like hell in my new room, my new bed, but woke up early and started my day like I would in any city.
I left the house bound for Mars, an independent coffee shop on the east side of campus. With an aching familiarity that’s just a few weeks old, I put my ear buds in, programmed my iPod to one of my favorite playlists and set off by myself. It felt like so many walks I took this summer, but Carpenter Ave. and the Drake University campus, while lovely, don’t make me feel the way that Ravenswood at 6:45 a.m. or Leland at twilight do.
“You’ll adjust,” my friend Kensie told me as I anticipated the move. “You’re adaptable; like a chameleon — but prettier!”
And it’s true that I can adjust; I can adapt. And I will.
But I think I will be tempted to walk a fine line between “adjusting” and “settling” — and the latter is something I don’t want to do. Is Des Moines someplace I want to be for the rest of my life? Certainly not. But there is a reason why I chose Drake instead of, say, DePaul. There is a reason I came here three years ago instead of running the city like I would now.
Chicago came at a good point in my life, and I wouldn’t love it the same if it had come at a different time. I wouldn’t love if it I didn’t have Des Moines to compare it to; if I didn’t have relationships like mine with Scottie and with my sorority sisters — good and bad — to grow from; if I wasn’t ready to be alone instead of lonely and be brave enough to wander instead of be lost. For that, I love Chicago like I love nowhere else.
I’m back for my last year, and I want to remember that there are things about Des Moines that are great. But I think the catch is that I can’t just find them — I need to look for them. Chicago didn’t fall at my doorstep…the best things don’t. And as a college student, I think it’s easy to come to a town and expect the amenities and the glory to reveal themselves without effort; and while I’ve done considerably more work than most, I’ve gotten lazy.
I think it’s time I get back to work. I want to adapt; I don’t want to spend nine months wishing I were somewhere else. I will be somewhere else, eventually, but in the meantime, just imagine a brown-eyed chameleon traipsing around Iowa. She’ll be turning beautiful colors.
…Or maybe just picture me, I don’t know. Google chameleons. They are not cute.