Kaitlyn Jo Smith

I Can Be Strong and I Can Be Scared

As a human who is resistant to change, more often then not, I find myself tackling it head on. The reason for this is simple: I am scared of everything, but I am proactive in my fear. By this point of life, nearly twenty-three years in, I know myself well enough to understand that if I don’t put myself in sink or swim situations I will happily choose to stay dry on the shore. My aspirations are far too grand to lead a life safely tucked away from the waves and so time after time I find myself faced with the decision to overcome and forge ahead, or run home with my tail ungracefully tucked between my legs. This doesn’t make me brave, but rather self aware. I can be strong and I can be scared all at the same time. Life has taught me to fake my confidence until my quivering interior reflects the cool, calm demeanor I (attempt to) portray to the world. In other words I am the queen of fake it til you make it.

Arizona film066-edit

This is how I have found myself two months away from the biggest move I have ever made: 29 hours, 1,990 miles away from home. I am terrified. I could stay in Columbus, Ohio, indefinitely and be content for the rest of my life, but I have never been one to settle for contentment, I prefer excitement and spontaneity. It is so easy to settle, and this past year I found myself growing comfortable in the normalcy of a 9 to 5. For the first time the thought of settling down scared me more than the thought of leaving and so it became apparent that I needed to once again shove myself headfirst out of my comfort zone. I talked big talk all throughout college about graduating and running west to the mountains and it was time to live up to those lofty expectations. The reasonable side of my brain rationalized with the romantic half that it would be foolish to run away without some semblance of a plan. I told myself I would work in the city for one more year to save and plot my next step; if I got into grad school I would go (wherever that may be), if not I would line up a job in Nashville and sell my belongings for a shot at something new. If you have been following my journey you already know what happened, I got accepted to U of A’s MFA program and am headed southwest to Tucson at the end of July.

Columbus has treated me better than I could have ever suspected when, as a seventeen year old girl, I signed my life away to an unfathomable amount of student loan dent and an attempt at a future. While the transition from country bumpkin to somewhat street savvy city slicker hasn’t always been easy (or enjoyable) it has been worth every second. I have become more cultured, open-minded and empathetic because I have been immersed in real diversity. I pride myself in my ability to listen to and understand both sides of a story or a political view finding myself more often than not with an opinion nestled somewhere in the middle. I went from being seventeen and never having driven on a highway to driving I-71 every single day. Now I’m twenty-two and preparing to drive three days towards my next adventure.

I didn’t expect leaving Columbus to be quite so bittersweet (not in the same way leaving Wyandot County was) but as the time grows nearer, my thoughts grow fonder. Five years, nearly a fourth of my life, has been spent here, and I honestly have no clue how that happened so quickly. What scares me most about leaving Columbus is, ironically enough, coming back. I experienced this when I left home, people who were not old aged drastically in those five years I was gone. This is what happens when you spend an extended period of time away. When you are around someone every single day you don’t notice them changing, it’s subtle, but happening, undetected, right before your very eyes. When you aren’t around to see these subtleties they accumulate into something much more noticeable. The same thing happens with place. I am scared that when I come back to Columbus it wont be my Columbus anymore, it will belong to a whole new generation. New undergraduate students, the same college parties. This is what happens when you refuse to settle down, you leave a piece of you in every place you have ever inhabited (no matter how brief).

I am grasping at a piece of my heart ripping it out (never a clean cut) and leaving it discarded beside the tumbleweeds of garbage along East 19th Avenue. I would like to imagine it finds its way to live beside the dumpster that haphazardly reads ‘girls living outside of societies standards’ in white spray paint. Another piece of my heart is in Wyandot County in the cornfield behind my parents house and soon one will reside in an unknown corner of Tucson, Arizona. I am excited to find my new corner store, stoop, coffee shop and bar, but oh so sad to leave my current places behind.

“…and when I find a place to rest, I’ll stay just long enough to catch my breath.”

– Miranda Lambert

Make sure you click the follow button on the right hand side of this page if you are interested in making the journey into the desert alongside the bees.

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