Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The opposite of the word "settle"

I have central-Illinois jet lag. Bloomington Champaign Springfield. Within these three kindred cities unravels the story of my life (somewhere in the background, Urbana and Normal are stammering and upset). All three of these places have homelike feels to them. Two of these places are competing for my permanent residence, and two of them are competing for my free time.

I live in Champaign. I stay there.
I'm from Springfield. I return there.
My girlfriend lives in Bloomington. I visit there.

Navigating these three cities is easy, if you have a car. Interstate highways connect them, triangularly. Fifty-five connects Bloomington and Springfield, 72 connects Springfield and Champaign, and 74 connects Champaign and Bloomington. You won't find a taxing drive in the lot. Unfortunately for her, Jenn has a car and I don't. So she tends to be using that a lot while I bum rides and hitch buses with my parents' money.

The concept of home made a lot more sense when I was younger. In the past four years it's really degraded into an idea, as opposed to a place (600 Kenyon). It's become people, buildings, smells, streets, anything really.

The transitional phase of leaving the nest is gigantic. You go to college, you spend four years there, then you start honing in on a place of residence. You don't just, say, move to Milwaukee and setup camp. You go to a place, build a resume, meet some people, move elsewhere, blah. Once you realize that college is just a kickoff into homelessness and self-preservation, you kind of see it for more than the parent-free drinking haven that it is.

The feeling of independence is astounding, and I sometimes fear college may be the pinnacle of that. Independence and responsibility operate separately of one another. At least, such is true in college. I mean, sure, it's a step up from high school in terms of responsibilities. But you are at the point of least overlap between providing for yourself and being provided for. Before college, it's one way; after, the other.

This vast freedom is at times entirely euphoric, while at other times intimidating and daunting. There is a way to screw it up, ask to be provided for when you need to self-provide, or vice versa. You can slip up and dig a deep hole. Lose out on college, job opportunities or the terrifying future.

Employment outlook is just terrible. It feels like I'm blindly running through this jungle known as college, hoping I don't trip over anything or run into any predators, and presuming that if I just run long enough I'll get out of the jungle and into the clear. I'm blindfolding myself, like with my arm, and screaming all the while. And yes, I'm terrified, but also utterly exhilarated.

I alternatingly thought my parents were stupid and awesome for going to college for their passions: art and music. It was cool in the moments where I didn't just feel poor. And here I am going into journalism, a business that's getting a lot out of being fake to people. But it's not about the business; the business is interesting though, for with a stabilized business for journalism, perhaps media will regress to truthfulness and purposeful, accurate news reporting.

Or perhaps the technology boom will trump journalism, and the media will become corporatized (Tribune) and undesirable. Perhaps I'll end up just a writer, who tries to put words together better than all of you and expects to be paid for doing so.

My source material is mundane, living through the triangle. My life isn't overly depressing, living conditions are easy and midwestern, friends are plentiful and, while interesting, normal. My experiences are too relatable. And I think I put too much into source material, but typically because great writers have interesting backgrounds. Me, I have the summer of 2010 and little else.

This semester, I got experience at trying new things. Radio production, night editing, Vidcast, beat reporting, it was all new and that was the most I gained from it -- the newness. It's something I've always thought that to succeed, you must make your situation uncomfortable and then get comfortable with it. Like working out, but with your life events and situations.

So I'm staying in Champaign this summer. Hoping to be made uncomfortable once again. I don't know what it will be like, but after last year, feeling like breathing the Springfield summer air was taking years off my life, I want to try something new. I'll be an important person at the paper, and do my best not to mess up a ton.

And though my life is becoming the opposite of the word "settle," I think I'm starting to get used to not getting used to anything.

--Eliot Sill  

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