“Every morning, my commute to IUPUI was spent looking out at a city that was so much bigger than myself…”In August of 2014, I got exactly what I wanted; I moved out of Greencastle. When Mom and Dad left my Indianapolis apartment, I didn’t have the nerve to start unpacking the sea of boxes. Instead, I stared transfixed at the AC control. After what was probably 30 minutes, the first gesture of my newfound freedom wasn’t some college party or cloddish attempt to test new boundaries. My first grand act of defiance was moving the AC to 67, six degrees below Mom’s 73.
I woke up early the next morning, freezing. I opened the blinds to wait for the sunrise and embarrassingly realized that the sun doesn’t rise the same way for an apartment looking out towards the West. I spent all day unpacking, waiting to see the sun set. When the afternoon faded towards dusk and the sun touched the horizon, it became lost behind a billboard for a tire company. For someone who always preached about never returning to their hometown, I read that billboard over and over with a pervasive loneliness and a silent prayer asking to go home.
After half a semester at IUPUI, I was completely lost in my new life. While I was beginning to craft new and important friendships, everything was still so fresh that more often than not I’d still be eating Panda Express by myself, watching people get pulled over by the IPD out my apartment window. My choice for a journalism, film, and creative writing education track was going steady, but my peers were so incredibly talented that I didn’t feel like I had anything new or important to give.
As a writer, you need to have a certain level of confidence, maybe even arrogance to believe that what you create is actually worthy of people’s time. I had an over abundance of arrogance coming into Indianapolis, but by the end of 2014, all of my artistic abilities were placed on the highest shelf. My guitars started to collect dust, my notebook of ideas was shut, and I began to regret all the time I spent wishing to be somewhere other than Greencastle. Every morning, my commute to IUPUI was spent looking out at a city that was so much bigger than myself.
Towards the end of my first semester, a class of mine was canceled. I spent the entire day in my room watching old movies on a VHS player. Since landing in Indianapolis, there had been a feeling of unrest in my chest. I couldn’t define what it was, or why it was there, but I tried drowning it out daily through a busy routine. Weeks spent attempting to stagnate the feelings had only made them stronger. That day spent entirely without moving had finally allowed my doubts and bitter realizations to bubble to the surface, and I had to face them head on.
If there’s any area of life that’s hardest for me, it’s admitting when I’ve been wrong. Apologizing to people is agonizing, but to actually admit in my heart and to myself that I was at fault is almost impossible. Yet, as the daylight faded from my apartment and the sun crept back behind the billboard, I accepted that there were areas of my life that I had been in defect. I told anyone and everyone I could that I’d never return home post high school graduation, but I never really looked deeply into why I said this. I realized that some of my hometown resentment was really misplaced anger at myself.
I thought the verbal resentment was bold and intelligent. All of high school, I hid myself inside some pseudo intellectual shroud of trendy Facebook articles and Youtube videos, hoping that I could learn or do something that would make myself stand out amongst my peers. More often than not, I’d make a fool out of myself in front of everyone. Saying anything negative about our town and its people was an attempt to displace myself from my own failures of not reaching any of my goals. I wanted to believe there was something else besides my own arrogance and decision making that had been holding me back. In Indianapolis, I had to wear those failures daily without any excuses.
I took for granted the people of this town. It’s not until you live with the constant wails of ambulance and police sirens that you become cognisant of when you lived without them. In Greencastle, you can always walk down the streets safely. The people walking around you are always quick to offer a smile or a “hello.” Businesses, restaurants, and stores are staffed and owned by neighbors, friends, and family. Even if you don’t know someone, you get the feeling they are here for the same reason you are; to live a happy and normal life.
Before moving away, I was quick to point out people in this town who I disagreed with or who I felt detracted from what this town had to offer. There will always be those people waving confederate flags on top of trucks spewing exhaust all over the road, but having moved away from town and stepping out into the world beyond, those people are everywhere, even in a city like Indianapolis. At least in Greencastle, all of us have a safe place to agree or disagree with each other inside of a town that we all want the best for.
Having gone through a semester and an experience that had humbled me, I realized my view of Greencastle, my family, and myself had been flawed. I never slept that night, staying up until 6:45 the next morning to call Mom. Twenty-two years ago, my parents gave up opportunities and dreams to move back to Greencastle in order to raise me and, later on, my two siblings in a community that offered a safe and stable environment. I realized that I had never thanked them for how or where they raised the three of us, so I did, and a few heartfelt apologies were given as well.
Approaching four years later, I now have returned to Greencastle alongside my wife, a Greencastle native herself. Before marrying, we bought a house off Washington Street. The entire time we dated, we dreamed up exotic places we could go, but both our hearts were always set on making our way back home. Greencastle gives us a place to live alongside our families, meet with friends from both in and out of town, and participate in a community that gives back more than either of us ever realized. I’m thankful for this town, and I’m thankful I failed in my promise to never come back. Life is sometimes better when you’re wrong.