Saturday, July 14, 2012

On leaving my first love.

My last weekend in Iowa City is turning out to be unexpectedly wonderful. My good friend Kelsey Dallas, (check out her blog!) took a last-minute trip to Iowa City today. For the past four semesters or so we managed to always find time for a weekly coffee date where we could catch up and be each other's life coaches on topics such as academic performance and boys, and Kelsey inspired me to purchase my first pair of skinny jeans! Getting to see her and for both of us to have the chance to share the anxiety we have about our upcoming life changes made me feel much better. Wednesday is my last day working at the nursing home, and I'm dreading it--I already get emotional just thinking about it. Saying goodbye to my residents is a different sort of goodbye than to my friends and family. I'll be back for one day in August to help out with an event, but ultimately after that the likelihood is that I won't see any of them again. I am fully aware of how lucky I have been to have a job that I love so much as a college student, and I'm also aware that my experience there probably helped me get accepted in the Ageing Studies program at Swansea University, and I'm so grateful for everything I've learned there and the joy that my residents bring me every day. As Kelsey pointed out, we both have such bright things in our future, but that doesn't make the things we're leaving behind any easier to leave. 

The ceiling of my bedroom in this apartment is covered with glow-in-the-dark stars that some previous tenant must have put there. I imagine it must have taken ages--they're the smallest I've ever seen, and there must be at least a hundred, most no larger than a pencil eraser. My first night in this apartment two years ago, I squealed in excitement when I turned off the light and saw them, and alarmed my roommates, who thought I was yelping in fear. Last night, as I lay in my practically empty bedroom on my inflatable mattress and looked at the stars, I thought about how I'll miss them, and how this apartment, and this city, feel like home to me. Our apartment is certainly nothing to brag about, with its leaking dishwasher that the maintenance men would never fix and our ground-level view of the neighbor's patio, but it is the first place I've truly ever lived on my own. Each of my three summers here has been distinctly different. The summer of 2010 was the summer of "the mold job", and 2011 was the first summer I worked for Briarwood rather than just volunteering. This summer has been a whirlwind of weddings, trips home, preparing to move out, and realizing how much I'll miss Iowa City.

I don't think I had such an emotional attachment to Peoria. I like it, and I appreciate the opportunities I had growing up there, but I think it's hard to truly love the place where you grew up, because it's something you've always known. Iowa City, however, is the first place I've fallen in love with (and hopefully it won't be the last). But I do think, like a first big crush or first love, it will always hold a more special place in my heart than anywhere else I may live. I realize that I don't fully know Iowa City. The campus and downtown area are distinctly different from other areas of town, and they are the parts I am most familiar with and that I love. I don't know much about the politics of the city, its flaws and its struggles, unless they're ones that affect me directly. So I suppose I don't love it for what it actually is, but for what I know of it and what it represents to me--my first home away from the home I grew up in. 

There are certain people we've loved, or thought we loved, who will always be preserved in our hearts as that perfect mold of what we loved about them, and it doesn't matter if that was accurate or not. This is how I love Iowa City, through my rose-colored glasses, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

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