Yesterday was my first anniversary of living in Athens. I moved here exactly a year ago. As I am a big nostalgia-pot, this has got me thinking about the year, and my life here in Athens. I also realized that a number of recent events have led me to reflect on how I have become at home in this place.
I got into a habit when Jim was here of meeting him after teaching my class in a coffee shop near my office. After a few weeks of spending the late morning reading and caffeinating there we started to know the regulars, who shared the place with us most mornings. We had friendly exchanges, mainly over plugging and unplugging laptops or looking after a person’s things when he put change in the meter. One day the barrista predicted my small coffee order before I placed it. This was an important moment – I had become a regular. Even if it was only conspicuous consumption, I felt like I belonged.
Yesterday I got my hair cut and dyed at the local cosmetology school (photos on my xanga). My stylist and I hit it off, I intend to visit the bar where she works so we can talk some more, that’s how much I like her. I guess we were kind of noisy at the hair place too, because a man who was there yesterday saw me in Barnes and Noble today and asked if I still liked my new haircut. It was strange but also oddly comforting. It felt like the town was a community, not just a city.
I think, too, of the close friendships I’ve developed after only a year. The friends in my department who I feel I can tell almost anything, who one year ago I was concerned about impressing and befriending. I don’t think I could have expected then the conversations I’ve had over pizza or a drink or some untouched grading about a wide range of subjects. These people make me smarter and more well-informed. I can talk to them about news or frustrations or career or relationships.
Just driving around Athens seems so familiar and normal, when I remember a year ago going anywhere was a trial. And in many ways Athens will be a special place to me because it’s the first place that I made my home all by myself, without my family or other people owning it first and bringing me in. In fact, Athens could be the only place where I establish myself by myself. I became an adult here in ways I didn’t in Grand Rapids because it was just too easy – too familiar and too automatic.
I’ve learned quite a bit over the last year, about myself, about others, about academics and life. I learned that the seeds of community are everywhere, although in some places it is easier than others to find and nurture that community. I learned to be more comfortable with solitude and silence (hours alone with your books will do that for you). It’s been a good year. Thanks be to God.