When Bethany and I moved from urban Columbia to our home in the country outside of Hartsburg almost twenty years ago, the idea was to have a peaceful reprieve from the tens of thousands of people who make city living a crowded and often stressful ordeal for folks like me who prefer the quiet and solitude of rural living. We accomplished that objective, and we are lucky enough to have lived in two different homes in Southern Boone County that have served that purpose very well.
Maybe a little too well.
Working in Ashland over the last six years has limited my exposure to “city life” even further. I don’t make the trip to Columbia very often these days, and I have to admit that I feel a bit of a disconnect with my former home of eight years.
I was driving past Faurot Field and the edge of Mizzou’s campus last week when I was momentarily overcome with a pang of nostalgia. With the almost fall-like weather, I drove with my windows down and soaked in the back-to-campus atmosphere that makes life in a college town so enjoyable. Suddenly, I could vividly remember what if felt like to live in Columbia. And I realized that I missed it. I do miss the excitement and the energy of living in an urban college town. Although it’s still a far cry from a St. Louis or a Kansas City in terms of population, Tiger Town has a lot to offer. Sports, live music, fine dining, and—people to interact with.
Living away from the hustle and bustle is lovely, but it can also be a little lonely at times. And as I sat idly on my couch for most of the summer, counting the days until the new school year would begin, I became depressed. For real. I had become withdrawn, and I allowed my smart phone to be my only connection to the outside world. I can tell you that my mental state, over the last few months, has not always been especially healthy.
I have come to realize that despite my professed aversion to crowds of people, I need to be around other human beings—especially those who are positive and having fun. Isolation, in heavy doses, is simply not good for me. Now I haven’t been a complete hermit this summer. I’ve gone on family camping trips, coached baseball, and spent some time with friends and family. But I have spent the majority of the last several weeks doing absolutely nothing, and frankly, I’m tired of it.
So, I decided to do something about it. I called my friend Troy, who lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, and asked him if he’d like to go to a concert in Boulder with me. The band playing was The Gasoline Lollipops, a group he had first turned me on to last winter. I figured Troy would say yes, hoping he didn’t already have other plans, because Troy has no aversion to crowds of people, and he has no aversion to enjoying good, live music.
Troy answered by saying,
“You’re not gonna believe this, but I’ve got an extra ticket to the Cardinals-Rockies game the next day in Denver. Let’s make a weekend of it.” And so it was decided that I would drive eleven hours to have a weekend among the people—Troy’s people. My people.
As always, the people of Colorado were friendly and accepting. I didn’t feel like an outsider or a tourist. I danced, talked, and cheered with people at the concert and at the game and had fun everywhere I went. It felt good. And it felt really good to reconnect with an old friend.
In another serendipitous twist, it was also Troy’s 50th birthday weekend. His plans for a big celebration with his local friends had fallen through just before I reached out to him. My Colorado getaway was obviously meant to be.
The Gas Pops lived up to the hype, the Cardinals won handily, and two old friends got to celebrate a birthday together. And I would have missed it all had I not pulled myself off that couch.
With my batteries recharged, I can now look forward to getting back to teaching, announcing football games, and feeling more like my old self again. Ready or not, Ashland (and Columbia), here I come!