School starts in less than a month, which means that we will be in Turkey in a matter of a couple of weeks. It’s really starting to hit me that I’m leaving Kansas for good. I’ve dreamt of the day I would say goodbye to this place for many years, long before I knew where I was going or what I would be doing. I’ve played out the vision of myself on a plane with suitcase in tow, smiling as I take off into the air because I’ve finally made it out countless times.
But as that day looms ever closer, I am taking every moment in more intensely…because the truth is there’s a lot I’m going to miss about this life. As I prepare to cut the tether to the only home I’ve ever known, I want to reflect on the things that I hold most dear about this place; the things I will be longing for when I’m on the other side of the world.
1. Family and Friends
My mom, sister, brother, and I the day before my wedding.
This one is probably the most obvious and really goes without saying, but I know without a doubt this will be the hardest part about moving away. I’ve lived my whole life within driving distance of my family and friends. There is comfort in knowing that they are never too far away from you if you want to see them or if you need someone. That’s a luxury we simply won’t have in Turkey. There will be an eight hour time difference between us and most of the people we know, so even finding time to Skype will be challenging. We will inevitably start to lose touch with some of our friends and there will be important moments and events that we’d like to attend, but will have to decline. I’m so grateful for all the support we have had from our family and friends with this big move, but I know it won’t always be easy for any of us.
2. Midwestern Friendliness
I will never forget the first time I went to a big city and tried to order a sandwich and they practically screamed at me and then chucked it in my direction, as if I was taking up way too much of their time. That’s just not how they do things here. There is never much of a rush and people always take the time to greet you, talk to you, wave at you – even total strangers. (That whole stereotype about longer-than-necessary answers to a simple “How are you?”…yeah, that’s pretty much accurate.) There is a general sense of community, kindness, and comfort here that is hard to come by in other places.
3. The Landscape
The Flint Hills
Kansas doesn’t exactly have a strong reputation for being a beautiful place; I doubt it’s ever been a contender for the cover of National Geographic. All the same, there is something to be said for the vast, open spaces and fields of wheat and sunflowers. Also, nothing beats a beautiful hike through the Flint Hills. While a part of me is counting down the days until I’m living by water for the first time in my life, these familiar scenes are sure to be missed when they aren’t right outside my window anymore.
4. Big Skies
I never knew how much I took this for granted until a few summers ago, when I was working for an ESL and American Culture camp for Japanese students. The moment we arrived in Emporia, all of the students marveled at the big, beautiful sunset. Apparently you can’t see too many nice sunsets in urban Japan due to all of the buildings and i soon learned that the same applies to many other parts of the world. Because the landscape is so flat and there is so little pollution here, the sky looks HUGE, like it could swallow up everything. It makes for some pretty spectacular sunsets and some epic night skies. Nothing beats watching the sun set with a cup of hot tea or hunting for constellations at night with Google Sky Map.
5. The Open Road
Unless you’re in one of the bigger towns like Kansas City or Wichita, there is virtually no traffic here. You can get across town in less than 15 minutes, which is pretty convenient; I honestly couldn’t imagine being in traffic for hours every day. While I think cars are a pretty big pain in the ass, I occasionally like the freedom of driving to some good music with nobody else around. We won’t necessarily have to deal with traffic on a regular basis since we’ll live where we’ll work, but we won’t have our own cars. I won’t miss the maintenance, but I will definitely miss being able to just take off on a drive when the urge strikes.
This is universal. Nothing hits the spot like the food of your upbringing. I like a wide variety of foods, but some favorite Midwestern foods that come to mind include barbecue (KC style), corn on the cob, chili, chicken and noodles, cookout food in general…not to mention all of my favorite local restaurants. Turkey is rumored to have some amazing food that I am sure I will love, but I know the day will come when I’m absolutely dying for some barbecue or good Mexican food and won’t be able to satisfy the craving. I’m loading up while I can!
If you’ve never been to Kansas, but know of its existence, you probably only know one thing about it: tornadoes. Now I definitely won’t miss those; I’ve never been fond of the whole storm-chasing thing. However, I LOVE a good thunderstorm…the kind that sends floods of rain and lightning and thunder, especially at night! There’s nothing cozier than sitting by the window, with a book in one hand and coffee in the other, watching the downpour. I’m sure there will be rain and storms in Turkey, but I doubt they will match the epic-ness of the storms here in Tornado Alley.
8. Peace and Quiet
I will be the first to admit that I complain a lot about not being closer to a city and having nothing to do…but sometimes that’s not a bad thing. I don’t always appreciate the slow, quiet life as much as I should. For example, nothing boosts creativity like the absolute boredom you can find in small towns. I know that doesn’t make it sound appealing (and sometimes it isn’t), but some of my best memories are of doing completely random things with friends and family because there was honestly so little to do that we had to make our own fun! Also, some nights I just want to find some solitude and disconnect or disappear into my own world with my PJs and some Netflix, without noise or distractions. That’s totally possible here.
9. The Carefree-ness of Youth
High school graduation
College life is now officially over for both of us. Most of our friends we graduated with have scattered across the globe to start their careers and we are getting ready to do the same. We will be thousands of miles away from our usual support systems, we will no longer be on our parents’ insurance or cell phone plans, and we won’t be bringing huge bags full of dirty laundry with us on holidays anymore. Once we step on that plane, adulthood is here for good. While it is a very welcome change, there’s no doubt in my mind that I will occasionally mourn for the days of a tiny apartment, minimum wage job, cereal for dinner, and endless hours of video games with little to no responsibility.
10. The Comfort of Belonging
While there are many parts of Kansas culture that I have never quite jived with, I have an inherent understanding of life here. This is my home and my culture and it’s pretty easy for me to fit in. There is comfort in knowing your surroundings and being able to speak the language and follow the unwritten rules. Everything in Turkey will be new and unfamiliar, and while I find that incredibly exciting, I know that it will also occasionally be very frustrating and the comfort and familiarity of home will probably be deeply missed in moments of culture shock.
Speaking as someone who has wanted to be an expat for a very long time, I think it is easy to want to break free from a culture that you don’t feel totally happy in. At the same time, I know it will hit me hard when I realize that the place I am from will always be a part of me and will come to the surface in moments that I least expect it. Leaving is bittersweet. In order to have adventures and chase my dreams, there are many things I will be giving up and I don’t want to forget that. So here’s to the end of my time in the Sunflower State…and to the crazy road ahead!