January 03, 2007

A SENSE OF PLACE

I've moved around some in my early adult life. At 20 I spent a summer in New York City working as a hotel operator for the Shelburne Murray Hill . I lived in Park Slope Brooklyn and road the F train to and from Manhattan every day. Without anticipating it, I found a great sense of independence in NYC which I took to like a drug. I couldn't get enough of it and still can't.


















When I was 22 I spent a semester studying creative writing at University of Montana in Missoula. Montana was an important place for me because it was there that I first began to develop a strong self awareness. With this awareness came a definite voice and personality in my writing that has deepened and matured over time - but never changed.


















After graduating from Utah State University I moved to Chicago where I worked at an advertising agency and fell in love with the midwest. I made good friends in Chicago and felt a strong sense of belonging almost immediately. I never wanted to leave. But I did.


















I moved back to Missoula, Montana a year later and lived and worked there two years before coming back to Utah where I've been ever since. My second stint in Montana was where I happened onto my sense of discovery and connection to all things out of doors. The mountains and ocean both became places of retreat and recuperation.


















Just before I met Nate I had grand designs of living and working in Santa Cruz, CA or moving to Thailand for a year working to help with tsunami relief. I had gone as far as interview for work in CA {turning down one job offer} and identifying a few humanitarian groups to work with in Thailand. And then...Nate.
As I've moved I've accumulated a nearly complete set of "personal senses" {independence, awareness, belonging, discovery and connection}. What was missing was a strong sense of place. I've always been restless - wanting to roam the earth like a nomad until I found the thing - that essence - that made me commit and stay in one spot. I'm not sure I've found it yet but I have realized that a sense of place doesn't have much to do with the landscape or your zip code. It has everything to do with how involved you get, the friends you keep and how much you grow as a person. You can do all of these things anywhere if you just decide. Is that what a sense of place is? A decision?

1 comment:

ali said...

Tonia, I feel as though we are destined to be friends. I'm a Utah State graduate, myself, and an English major. Did you study English too? I've done my fair share of living "around" too--Hawaii, London, D.C., but somehow never ran into you until the blogging world changed my life. I'm SO jealous of your summer in Missoula. That's a dream of mine. I want to hear all about it ... someday. :)