Fourteen years ago, I fell in love. At one of the hardest moments in my life, moving away from my family, friends and hometown, I did the impossible and went and fell in love with a completely new place. Granted, my completely new place still had cows, green pastures and wide open spaces, but it also had a massive grocery store down the road, a bus system and a major university contained within its rural atmosphere. Yes, I went and fell in love with State College, Pa.
At the time, it crept up on me slowly. For a young lady who was used to flat farmland – where you can see the storm clouds moving in miles before it’s ever going to rain, lightning strikes in the distance and sunsets that make you believe in a higher power – moving to the mountains of Pennsylvania was a drastic change. No longer could I watch the sun sink until the last tip of it disappeared beneath the horizon; instead, it was obscured by the mountains long before actual sunset. Looking back, it did deliver some impressive sunsets with mountain backdrops.
Many a time I was caught in a sudden downburst or snow squall because I could not see the storm rolling in over the mountains. I just didn’t understand the way weather worked with these giant mountains in the way. Most of all, I missed the snow and thunderstorms that I was so familiar with growing up. I’d cheer when the forecast called for a snowstorm to move up the valley and gasp in delight when the faint echoes of rumble made their way into town.
In a town with more than 40,000 college students alone, it was sometimes busy. I wasn’t accustomed to using a bus system or having a grocery store 10 minutes away that carried exotic foods. I wasn’t used to being able to order pizza, cookies, Chinese food or anything my heart desired and have it delivered to my house within minutes. Nor was I used to the variety of people, races, languages, dress codes and other happenings that are part and parcel of a college town. I won’t deny that I miss those things.
I moved back into the area in August, and I will not lie – the transition has been a bit rough. I miss having many options for dinner, drinks or even just to go and window shop. In State College, all of those things were within minutes. From my house to the Eastwood Mall is about 20 minutes, and even then, the draw of the stores is not great enough to lure me out. As for things to do, well, if not hitting the local bars, I’m still not 100 percent sure what else there is to do.
I miss going to a grocery store with a complete Chinese, Japanese, Latino, Indian, African sections of food, where I can find anything I want when I want it. I miss having good high-speed internet and getting more than four television channels. I miss hearing different languages, seeing different races and watching children of all ages, ethnicities, and religion play together in peaceful harmony. I miss my friends and my life that I led in that beautiful college town.
However, here at home – because make no doubt, this is where by heart is buried, deep in the dirt of Ohio – I enjoy many things. I enjoy the vast plethora of stars that I can see whenever I walk out of my door. I love the snow that blows in off Lake Erie. The wide-open spaces call to my heart and soothe my soul like warm chicken soup on a cold night. Tractors, combines, C-130s and pickup trucks make the music that keeps me smiling.
I’m learning to fall in love with living in a rural town all over again. Even though I might gripe, complain and occasionally bemoan the things I miss from State College, my New Year’s resolution has been to step back, slow down and learn to fall in love all over again with my first love.
Christen Clemson is a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and received her doctorate at the Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca.