From NYC to Ohio: Moving from a Metropolis to a Village

Philander Chase founded Kenyon College in its specific location to get away from the “vice and dissipations” of urban life, and while I can’t speak to how relevant that was when Kenyon was founded in 1824, it sure does ring true now in 2018. It does for me at least. Being New York City born and raised, I knew coming to Kenyon would definitely shake things up a bit in my life. However, I don’t think I could’ve ever imagined how exactly it would alter the relationship I have with my hometown.

 

Somewhere during the college process, I decided that I wanted to attend a small liberal arts college located in a very small town. I made this conscious decision for many reasons. For starters, I knew I needed a change of scenery. The other main reason was that I knew I wanted to be a part of a tight-knit community where I wouldn’t fade away into the walls. At a larger university, the thought of becoming nothing more than the number on my Student ID card to both professors and peers alike startled me.

Unfortunately, my family didn’t always agree with my decision to go to such a small school. This was made very apparent as they persistently suggested large university after large university. To me, my arguments with them about where I belonged often felt as if I were fighting for my life. My desire to escape the burden of my urban setting felt so dire, as if New York City was slowly destroying me, and, as extreme as this may sound, perhaps it was. I had begun to lose myself in the city, and if I went to a large university, I thought I’d lose myself forever. So angsty, I know. But, my weeks throughout middle school and high school included early morning orchestra rehearsals, dance classes at a studio that was right smack in the center of tourist central, Times Square, and many hours spent inside my Upper East Side private school which added an entirely new level of stress to my life that I had never known to exist before.

 

Growing up in a city means a lot of things. For instance, in my case, like many young adults, it means learning to balance a number of things. But, it also means learning to not take it personally when someone bumps into you on the street and doesn’t say they’re sorry. It means pushing your way through slow-walking tourists when you’re late for class. It means gaining independence at a very early age, whether you want that independence or not. It means living off of a budget since you’ve been in middle school because you had to learn how to make your allowance last all week on New York City prices. It means learning to get oddly comfortable with hundreds of strangers every single week while trying to shove yourself onto a rush hour train.

Busy schedules in a busy city can be demanding on their own, but in between of all of that, you have to factor in what we call “growing up” and all of the other pesky things adolescence has to throw your way, which could make the city unbearable at times for me. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t the exception to the rule; most of my peers were just as busy as I was, if not busier. This fact often left me feeling as if I were simply over-exaggerating my situation because no one else around me seemed to be having a similar crisis to what I was going through. I was perpetually mentally and physically exhausted and wanted to be able to breathe normally again. I needed some time to remember who I was and discover who I am, so I left the Manhattan grid for the Ohio cornfields.

 

I’ve learned so much from my urban setting upbringing, but I needed a break from it. I came to Kenyon in order to break out of my city bubble and to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I knew I would love Gambier, but I never expected to love it more than my own hometown. As a freshman at Kenyon, I came to resent New York City, the place that I had always prided myself on being from. New York was the only place I knew, and all of a sudden, it vanished and meant nothing to me. Whenever I visited home, I was increasingly and visibly irritated. I wanted to hide from the busy streets I once found comfort in getting lost in, causing me to stay home more often. I no longer cared to see the faces of my friends and peers that I went to high school with, and, to put it simply, I no longer felt at home at my only home. While I was still forming my identity at Kenyon, there was a certain amount of time where I still hadn’t felt comfortable calling my campus home yet, throwing me into this limbo where I didn’t feel as if I belonged anywhere. But as freshmen year went on, my love for Kenyon grew to a point where it surpassed my love for the city, making me worried to come home for every single break.

 

Now, I have begun to get back in touch with old friends and to reacquaint myself with my beloved Metrocard. I have begun to venture through my old favorite childhood museums, to eat at restaurants I haven’t been to in a long time, and to spend long days in parks to slowly but surely remind myself of all of the things New York City has to offer. What I’ve learned over the past year is that it’s okay to feel strange coming home after your first few months at college, and it’s still okay to feel strange even after your first full year away. College is about traveling elsewhere, experiencing life without the guidance of your friends and family, and seeing what the world looks like outside of your bubble. I’ve learned that Confederate flags do exist, that people you don’t know will say ‘Hi’ and ‘Good morning’ to you on the street, that Kroger is a great supermarket, and that I truly love living in an isolated village. And I’ve learned that with time any dust you have brought up will eventually settle back into place. After accepting the pros and cons of both of my homes, perhaps maybe I am finally coming out of that purgatory state I had found myself in because now when I see the Manhattan grid from above out of the small plane windows to my right and left I can feel my heart fill up with joy. I have begun to experience a sensation that had once become so foreign to me, complete with my stomach bubbling over with excitement not being able to stop my knees from bouncing.

Image Credit: Feature,1,2,Author’s Own