April 15, 2011
In the middle of a linguistics assignment, Miranda Lambert’s country twang shattered my concentration on foreign language teaching and made me think of camp. Of summers spent in the sun, and the dirt, my tanned and freckled skin dotted with mosquito bites and bramble scratches. Of days spent grooming horses and shoveling manure—the kind of labor that makes you grateful to fall onto your mattress at night, no matter how thin or lopsided it might be. Of backcountry roads and cornfields, of lakes and forests and towns with little more to do than go to Wallyworld. Of singing around a campfire, or with a motley group of men and boys bearing old instruments. Of being truly happy, despite the hard work and the way the forest that surrounded us limited my world.
I like being a college student. I like being an intellectual, I like sitting in coffee shops writing essays on classic literature. I like the hobbies I have picked up here, and the network of dancing friends that spreads across the Midwest. I loved living in Europe, with its public transportation and liberal mindset, the sense of history and tradition pressing in from every direction.
I would have to give all that up if I moved to the country. The easy travel to dance exchanges, the ability to hop on the TGV and marvel at the cathédrale of another ville and then picnic on bread and cheese. The life of tea in coffee shops with computer in hand and book on the brain. And yet there are days when I wonder what I’m doing in college at all, when I know that workdays spent in a little room with fluorescent lights, be it a classroom or an office cubicle, will surely drive me mad. But what is there to do, these days, that would let me spend my life outdoors? But ranching stopped being a profitable occupation a long time ago.
I’m a mountain girl, a country girl, a European village girl. I want to sit in on Irish trad sessions with a pint in hand, to hike the Rocky Mountains, to visit the vineyards of France. I want to spend my life writing and thinking—and yet I want nothing more than to raise horses and grow my own food. How can I be happy, when my own desires pull me in such different directions? How am I to find my own path, when I have no idea which way I want to go?