The last time I moved away from South Dakota, and not to go to Africa, was shortly after my college graduation. I went to Idaho with the highest intentions of never returning and for an entry level reporting position that I figured was just a few steps away from beat writer at a daily metro. Yet, I was young and hadn’t given myself permission to explore possibilities beyond my comfort zone.
Idaho was an escape for me. It was the first door to open and so I went through it, never once doubting if it was the right choice. I knew that it wouldn’t be a long-term landing spot for me, but at least I was moving down a path that was turned away from South Dakota.
Seven months later, though, I moved back to South Dakota.
Idaho didn’t work for a myriad of reasons. I realized that I didn’t want to be a reporter anymore, at least not until I had other experiences and could rule them out as things that would make me happier. I wondered if leaving for the sake of leaving really was the best thing. I didn’t know that I could take chances for something bigger. I didn’t see that accepting it wasn’t for me would open up myself to greater possibilities.
To realize all that, I had to come back to South Dakota. I thought that I was a failure for returning home and for a long time I associated my lack of success with the fact that I was back living in my college town. It was a giant scar that I couldn’t remove. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel this satisfaction in being right where I needed to be at that point in my life. Friendships that were casual in college deepened and I started exploring my future without fear or restriction. I succeeded and I failed. I loved and I lost. I took chances and I accepted failure as destiny when those chances didn’t pan out. The Post, Peace Corps, none of that would have happened had I not been in South Dakota.
Then I went to Africa, twice. South Dakota was my badge of honor and identity when sharing my previous life with other volunteers and pride for my home state never weakened against others’ judgement. It is the place that I called home, and that meant to me it is above every other place. South Dakota is what I yearned for when walking through rolling landscapes of planted crops. It’s where I wanted to be when I needed comfort. And it’s the only place I wanted to go when it was time to leave.
It’s time to leave South Dakota again, and unlike when I went to the Peace Corps, I am not sure I will return. Maybe I will, but I don’t know that. This time, though, I am not leaving for the sake of escaping. Life is just calling me somewhere else.
I feel like I just got home but in a mere five days I am going again and there is so much on my South Dakota bucket list left undone. I never made it to Sioux Falls or the Black Hills and there are friends I simply won’t have the chance to reconnect with because time is up. Yet, I have loved the two months back in South Dakota. I was able to see old friends and eat at our favorite places. I was able to trace the lines of the Missouri River from a car window and clear my head on old running trails. I was able to b involved in my family’s everyday life again. No other place could have welcomed me home and allowed me to stumble through a transition.
I am so very excited for this new opportunity in life but I am also sad to say goodbye to a place that has given me everything. Yet, South Dakota will always be a part of me, wherever I go. It’s a part of who I am and because of it I have the audacity to follow less defined paths. And the most comforting solace, no matter where I go or how I succeed or fail, it will always be home.