A year ago, I was terrified.
In December of 2014, my family and I moved from my hometown of St. Louis to Little Rock, basically going from familiar and safe to the middle of fucking nowhere. Little Rock was too quiet, desolate and full of different people I didn’t know or recognize. This was crazy and it wasn’t a drill.
We settled into a new apartment complex that seemed like the set for Walking Dead or Breaking Bad(the desert scenes). Nothing was around. The closest thing to get a bite to eat was McDonalds, IHOP or Firehouse Subs(just shoot me). Change is a motherfucker because it upends everything you are close to and replaces it with other shit. Friends and family will tell you to stay busy and adapt, but it’s not that easy. It’s not a Matrix like upload or an easy progression. It takes time and usually involves panic.
We moved down here for my wife’s new job. A huge promotion. She was getting her own store and would truly boost the economic income of our household and also provide me with a chance to write for a living. It was a win-win professionally but personally it was a hardship. I freaked out. Big time. I questioned everything I thought was figured out in my life. Imagine your life is a large puzzle and then three kids go over to it and smash it apart and the pieces don’t fit they way they used to. It’s insane and threw me a curveball and truly hurt those around me. After 2-3 months of soul searching and mental ass kicking, I dug both feet in and stayed. I got used to my surroundings.
I found a gym, a coffee shop that didn’t produce slop, and a movie theater. The three needs a man like myself craves in order to truly fit into a hole. I’m sorry, Arkansas folks, but this place isn’t as good as St. Louis. Not even close. Missouri has this place beat in every area, including the area of “don’t ask me a 100 fucking questions at an auto shop while we wait for our cars to be worked on”. STL is still the center of my universe and a place I call home. I think of this Little Rock experiment as being stationed oversears for a couple years and simply a trial I must push through. No offense Little Rock. I am sure you would say the same thing of St. Louis if you were shipped there suddenly.
That was the reason it hurt so bad. No matter how I was prepared for it or ready to make the switch, a move out of state never feels normal. It feels like you are being taken, and there is no Liam Neeson coming to save you. It’s like being dumped somewhere where people talk differently, there’s several Mexican restaurants and basically no clear way out. You make do. It’s not like it has been easy folks.
*First, the in your face idea the people down here have is fucked up. I can be standing outside at a gas station or somewhere else in public and people feel like it’s time to get to know me and my whole life story. Before I can finish pumping gas, they are telling me good schools to go to and how this is good. The entire time, I have zero fucks to give. You find out how private you are when people invade your personal space every day. I don’t need to tell everyone my life story. Get in line.
*The food is mostly shit. Especially in a place called Maumelle. You know what your surrounding food is. David’s Burgers(Five Guys evil twin). Zaxby’s(KFC’s fucked up brother), McDonalds, IHop, Firehouse Subs(Subway’s demented cousin) and 2-3 Mexican places and shitty pizza joints. Your one truly good restaurant, Cheers, doesn’t know your fucking name and is crazy expensive. There are a few other places to eat that you won’t feel like some personal space with a toilet is out of the question later, but overall, it sucks.
*There is no hockey. People don’t even know what hockey is. They need to work on that.
*They don’t treat the roads during snow storms or freezing rain servings. Seriously, they shut the city down and call it. Like a rain shower dropping on a baseball field and the umps don’t even treat the field or anything. I am from St. Louis, where snow and ice are frequent and the roads are treated with salt and plowed. Down here, they do nothing. Sorry for all the people that actually have to drive to work. Get some ice skates or a sled.
*That no hockey thing….yeah..Fox Sports Midwest Blues hockey is blacked out down here.
Every place has its drawbacks, but the good thing is the more I look around the better things get. ARK can produce a fine sunset and has several good parks to run through. The people are nice. Too nice. Waffle House has grown on me so that is nice. There is good food. You just have to drive to it. So there isn’t all misery down here. It’s not as good as the Lou.
The important thing is I am fine. A year ago I wasn’t. My wife and I are happier than ever even though we bicker like Italians. My son and I get to spend a lot of time together. My writing is reaching new areas that are bringing me notoriety. Thing are good and they have gotten that way due to hard work and introspection.
For future re-locators, I have this advice. Keep it and store it or toss it into the infinite abyss of unneeded knowledge. It’s recycled through my experience but that doesn’t make it any less real or poignant. If you have to move or relocate to someplace completely different, give it time before you lose your shit completely. It’s okay to panic, as long as your feet are touching the ground and insanity doesn’t enter your mind. Know that every place has something for you, no matter how gray it seems at first. Trust me. It gets better.
Or you can always adopt Winston Churchill’s advice.
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Little Rock isn’t hell to me yet, but it’s not St. Louis. Not even close. However, these days, I am just fine.