I came as an outsider to Lubbock, Texas (exactly three years from the writing of this blog entry!) from the southeastern US. It was more of a culture shock than I expected; I had been to Europe before and even Africa, but Texas was part of the same country I’d lived in all my life. How could it be that different?
My first memories marking my arrival in West Texas are of fields of giant windmills on either side of the road and oil pumps bobbing up and down like toy birds drinking water. I had never seen either before, and I remember being totally perplexed. Here in this flat land, the green pine trees and kudzu I was accustomed to were replaced with scrubby gray-green vegetation, behemoth windmills as far as the eye could see, and machines that I assumed had something to do with oil but I wasn’t quite sure. I had driven 18 hours from home and now I had to live here? My heart sank.
I felt that helpless despair for about three weeks after coming to Lubbock. Surely I had made the biggest mistake of my life moving so far away from everyone and everything I knew to what was probably the ugliest place on Earth. But, in a desperate attempt to get out of my apartment I decided to attend a Night Hike at the Lubbock Lake National Historic Landmark, where I would come to work for the next two and a half years. That evening was my turning point; maybe this landscape wasn’t hideous, but fascinating and unique. There were animals I’d never seen before – roadrunners, horned lizards, coyotes, jackrabbits. There were tumbleweeds, which surprisingly existed outside of cartoons! I could feel the relief sinking in to my body as I hungrily embraced Lubbock’s newly discovered redeeming qualities.
Now, three years later, I’ve grown to love Lubbock and fully accept it as my home. Country music and wine were things that made me cringe before, but now my leisure time regularly involves both (at least the Texas versions). I’ve learned so much about the natural plants and animals here, especially since my career has focused on teaching it to children. I’m also fascinated with Lubbock’s history, reaching back from the Paleo-Indians 12,000 years ago, to the first person buried in the historic cemetery (a cowboy named Henry Jenkins), to Buddy Holly and the Crickets.
Some days I feel strange because Lubbock is roughly the same size as the largest town in my home region of Georgia, where I spent much of my time growing up. But though I can easily and fondly name the commonwealth assets of Lubbock, when I try to think of those back home I’m met with a mental block and negativity. I don’t hate my home region (as I once did) and it will always be a part of me, but growing up I felt stagnant and stifled. Moving several states away to somewhere totally new, while terrifying at first, has been emotionally freeing which I believe makes a huge difference in my attitudes towards the two places. This is something I’m still trying to come to terms with, though I believe this exercise in opening my eyes to the commonwealth assets around Lubbock will, when I’m ready, help me navigate the process of turning my gaze and my heart back to my place of origin.