I’ve been trying to figure out something.
See, I’ve been here, in Knoxville, TN for 20 years now, and I’m still not sure how I feel about that.
I came here when I was sixteen years old. My mother had just remarried and moved us to Endicott New York to live with her new husband. For a number of reasons – none of which I’m going to go into here – living in New York didn’t work for me. My parents got separated, and eventually divorced, when I was about five years old. My father had always wanted me to come live with him. Since I had been spending the month of July – every year since I was about twelve – with him, I had some friends here in Tennessee. I knew some of the territory.
It was a meager state of belonging, but it was still belonging.
So, I moved down here. And I’ve been here, pretty much ever since.
The friends I’ve talked to about this don’t quite know what to think, much less to say, about my current state of mixed emotions. I can’t say that I blame them. I don’t know what to think about it either.
Maybe that’s why I’m writing about it here.
If you haven’t read this story before, I’ll save you the details and just say that I did not find what I was looking for here in the South.
And now, twenty years later, the place I called home for the formative years of my life is mostly a collection of memories that seem to fade with each passing year.
I have made memories here. Good ones. Bad ones. Memories that shimmer and memories that grind. I don’t know if it has been more good than bad. I don’t even know where to start evaluating. All I know is I’ve spent most of my time feeling trapped here; stuck.
I’ve tried, on my better days, to make the most of the life I’ve lived here in Knoxville. But I’ve never felt like I belonged here. I’ve put down roots. I have friends. I met my a few loves and my wife to be here.
I’ve also hated, here.
Maybe that’s just life. That’s what people tell me, at any rate, But I don’t know.
Perhaps I am just one of those poor souls who is never quite satisfied, who never quite feels right.
John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.”
If he’s right, then I’ve made a life, such as it has been, here.
I don’t know. What I do know is this: if I had told my sixteen year old self that I would spend twenty years in this place, it probably would’ve driven me even crazier than I already was at sixteen.
I definitely would have told him to not be so afraid of debt and just get student loans to make it through college, but that’s the subject another rant altogether.
The funny thing is, I’m fairly happy with who I am. But I’m not prepared to bite the philosophical bullet that asserts I wouldn’t be who I am without all the experiences that led up to this. There’s a fair amount of pain I’m sure I’d be better off never having had to endure.
And now, twenty years later, I’m still here. I know this place. I know its roads and alleys. I know its beauty and its grotesque. I know who I am here and have gathered to me people and things that I care about.
But it still doesn’t feel right. I still don’t feel like I belong. Since I came here, I have always felt out of step. A moment too fast or slow – an inch or so out of place.
Maybe that’s just part of who I am.
Maybe it would be like that wherever I went.
I don’t know. I don’t think I will any time soon.
Maybe it doesn’t matter.
I’m still here.
And here I’ll stay…
…At least until grad school.