Go Away: Why Moving Away Can Be Good For You
I have moved around a bit with each new place contributing a bit more to my perspective and my circle of friends. I wanted to talk about my most recent move "away,” as it was my longest and most meaningful.
In early 2016, while living in Germany, I started applying to jobs to start my post-fellowship career. I was looking to teach full time, and I had put out a good number of applications. I was surprised to hear back from over 80% of my applications with interview requests. To be fair, I do know my “lane” well, but still, it was a time full with opportunities and options, most of which were away from my home base of the Greater Philadelphia area. Although I did not necessarily want to be away from friends and family for additional time, I was up for another adventure and more learning.
Fast forward to early May 2016— I had turned down a few early offers with jobs that did not seem to be the right fit, when I got an offer to move to Northern Minnesota for a really interesting teaching position. The phone call with the potential colleagues seemed positive, and the work profile was interesting and promising. I ended up accepting the offer for a two-year contract in Duluth at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
I knew the work experience would be a good next step, but I never expected falling in love…
I fell deeply in love with the people: the people I worked with, the people I befriended in the community, and ESPECIALLY my students.
Being over four months removed from them, I can say without hesitation that I still miss my students everyday. They were such a special bunch, and every time I receive an email from one of them, I can feel my heart fluttering. I have even noticed that there is a light sense of comfort I feel every time I hear an MN accent now.
To get back to the point, I remember when I made the decision to move to Northern MN, I remember so many people in my network either (1) asking me why I would ever do this or (2) keeping quiet because they had assumed that my job search had not been as promising (when they learned otherwise, they started on pattern #1).
Despite many of the challenges in living in Duluth for two years (e.g., the weather, the isolation, a handful of personal matters), I would not change that time for anything.
My heart continues to be fuller because I met all of the people I did, and I will continue to miss them for a long while.
Furthermore, my time in Duluth also continues to play a role in my perspective on the United States, the Midwest, Minnesota, and the Northland. As an East Coaster, we hear about the felt disconnect of the Midwest on East Coast matters and values. I understand this perspective better now. A good portion of my students were avid hunters and fishers from more remote parts of Minnesota or Wisconsin, and I really valued learning from their experiences “moving to a city.” I also had many students from the Great Twin Cities area, and I got to hear how they processed moving to a much smaller and more isolated “city.” All of their sense-making processes were fascinating, but they were also just, overall, a unique and lovely group of people.
Now, being so much closer to family, I am happier overall, and I feel grateful to be back. I especially value being back in the Greater Philadelphia area because I was away for nearly three years total between Germany and Duluth, MN.
I do not ever think there will be a way I will be able to fully explain how I feel about my time in Duluth: the good and the not-so-ideal.
What I can say is that if you get the chance to live away in another part of the country (or another country), do. Even the hardships can bring an opportunity for learning and reflection. If you can, when you can, and as you can… go away. From your hometown. From your networks. From your comfort zone.
A bit of my heart still lives with my colleagues, friends, and students in Duluth—with such vivid memories of them suspended in time—and I am more than okay with this. They have made me a better, more interesting person, and I am blessed to still have them in my life.
Also, I love this video of me, my colleagues, and students; they’re wonderful:
A special “thank you” to my MN family— thank you for letting me into your lives and for helping me to become who I am today. Lots of love to you all!