Monday, June 11, 2012

My town

I didn’t know what to expect when I moved to Gainesville. My idea of what American college experience was like was lifted from TV shows, “Felicity” , “A Different World” and the final season of “Saved By the Bell”. I was hoping for an incredibly intellectual setting. Well read and traveled ambitious people having endless debates about philosophy and art at all night cafes. I was hoping to see a stimulating city of young students driven by their causes. What I found didn’t quite live up to that image, but it became home. I don’t even know if college town is a proper term for it.  After all it has a significant local population with families that have lived here for generations. It feels more like a small Florida town with a university component at its heart that suddenly exploded making the whole thing spread out and grew. The two sides of Gainesville, the local and the transient, as students graduate and eventually live, grew together side by side. Symbiotic to an extent that you can’t be sure where one ends and the other begins, yet very distinct in many ways. Often it feels like it’s two cities pasted into one. Many of my friends that came here from bigger places told me that there is nothing to do here. I used to respond that boredom is a state of mind and you should always find ways to entertain yourself. But truthfully, I think I was just excited that I was able to go places and do things by myself, something I couldn’t do in my wheelchair in Warsaw. Everywhere I went felt like fun, because I never experienced it before. And then you had school that occupies the rest of your time, so between your work and relaxation you really don’t go on thinking too much about where you are. You have a goal and you’re here for a purpose. When you graduate, things change. Many of my friends used the  years in Gainesville to get wild and crazy, to live it up before moving on to their respectable, study careers. Very few decide to stay because from their perspective this is not a place you live in- it’s temporary. Sure, twenty years later they will reflect on the period as the best times of their lives, but they won’t settle down here. A friend asked me today if I’m considering moving away after she read one of my other entries from a few months ago. And the truth is, it’s something that is always in the back of my mind. I like it here, but I’m not quite at home. If a work offer or an opportunity to join a cause in New York, Washington DC or anywhere in America arises I will consider it. Yes, Gainesville has a busy bar scene. It also has theatre, arts and culture. A lot of it is however offered through the University. It leaves you feeling disconnected when you’re no longer part of the student body.

There’s not much to do when you’re over 28, but not quite 40. I feel a bit too old or should I say, mature to hang out with the 19-21 year olds that do backflips on buses, trip on high heels and vomit on sidewalks, but I’m not old or should I say local enough to frequent some of those other places. It’s a problem for some of my other friends as well. Gainesville doesn’t have much for these who decide to stay here, but transition out of the college life and are not from the area. Another friend complained that dating for her becomes a problem when she can’t find a scene for people around 30 and  she refuses to meet people online.  I would appreciate more culture and  entertainment. I guess it doesn’t matter when you have a car and can easily drive to either Jacksonville or Orlando, but I don’t have that luxury.  I need change, excitement and stimulation. While I’m too young to turn old I think I’m starting to feel too old for my town. Yes, I can force myself and power through it to have fun, but that’s not the point.

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