The Struggle to Stay

I am still in Greenville.

I graduated. I gave my friends send-offs, watched them over social media as they settled into their new jobs, and will have watched most of them get married by the end of the summer. I’m proud of them. I’m incredibly happy for them. I can’t wait to see how God uses them! But I can’t help feeling a little abandoned.

I’m still in Greenville. I never even left campus. I moved from one dorm to another. I started a new job. But I never even left campus.

This place is quiet and dull in the summer. I wished for quiet for the last four years. I take it all back now. August seems impossibly far away. Come back, people! Come back!

I’m currently living alone in a dorm room. Or, as I like to tell myself, a studio apartment on the top floor of a 4-story walk-up. This is the first time I haven’t shared a room with someone since I was about 8 years old. I don’t know anyone on my hall very well (not that there are many people here anyway), and they all stay in their rooms with the doors closed. Not much opportunity to get to know them. But hey, we all work 40 hours a week, so we’re all tired.

I like my job just fine. I’ve settled into the office just fine. It’s nice having evenings and weekends off, but maybe that leaves me with too much time on my hands.

I never wanted to stay in Greenville. Ever. I didn’t really have a good plan, but I knew that I didn’t want to stay here. It’s not just a “please-get-me-away-from-BJU” thing either. So what’s my deal? I have every reason to like Greenville. It’s a small city. The people are friendly for the most part. There’s plenty of coffee shops, a vibrant fine arts scene, a temperate climate with a long summer and short winter, every kind of store and restaurant I can think of. There are plenty of opportunities in my field. The cost of living is low. This is exactly the kind of place I thought I wanted to be. People from all over the country move to Greenville for those reasons and more. But my heart just isn’t here.

It bothers me to no end when people laugh at me and say that I’m going to be here forever. Number one, there’s no way they can know that. Number two, I don’t want to be told that I’m going to do the thing I don’t want to do. And number three, maybe my reasons for not wanting to stay are good reasons.

Greenville is packed with brilliant, talented people. That’s how the city has grown in business, the arts, and population. It makes sense. That’s certainly enjoyable for me. It’s a challenging, competitive place to build a life. But after growing up in a rural area, it’s hard to wrap my mind around the talent concentration.

I spent my whole life wishing people would settle somewhere near my family’s area and start a Christian school, or a community theater. Now,  I wish it were feasible for me to move back to the area, but there are few (if any) jobs in my field that are located anywhere near home. But no one moves back. There’s no real support to give them any reason to do so. And so everyone continues to settle in the areas where talent is already concentrated. It’s a vicious cycle.

I run into other Mainers every once in a while. We always talk about how much we wish we could move back home.

Maybe we should all just go ahead and move back already.

Staying here is easy. Maybe I don’t like things to be easy.

My heart is in Maine, not South Carolina.

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Jim Elliot was a wise man. Living with your body in one place and your heart in another is annoying at best and depressing at worst. We weren’t made to live in two places at once.

I firmly believe that I won’t be staying here forever, but the way the doors opened and circumstances fell into place made it clear to me that staying in Greenville is God’s plan for me–at least for now. If He wanted me in Maine right now, that’s where I would be. Right now. I need to learn to be content with where I am. I need to learn how to have a heart for this area. I need to be involved in the local church and the community. I need to pour myself into the place that God has placed me for now.

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