Saturday, October 14, 2006

I think I'll Miss The Springs The Most...

Today I made the rounds on my annual fall tour of the springs around southern Missouri. It was *the* weekend for fall foliage, but the drought this summer didn't allow for the colors I'd hoped to see.

There's a sign in Licking Missouri that says "Success 13 miles West. Rolla 26 miles North." It's right, Rolla is nowhere near success. However the town of Rolla does seem to embrace change. Students come every semester. Some leave two weeks later, after learning how woefully unprepared their public school educations have left them. Other woefully unprepared public school graduates like me stay despite this, complain for 4-6 years about how there's nothing in Rolla to do, but that's OK because I'm spending 21hrs/day 7 days/week on class work, then leave the second they graduate. Faculty and staff come and go because there is no money to be made, no success to be had. Rolla Townies leave for the same reasons - there's nothing to do here, your friends are always leaving, and Success is somewhere else. When your friends and relatives and acquaintances are constantly leaving, there is no one - I repeat no one - who cares about anything. Service industries that rely on townies for staffing are out of luck, because none of those people care about showing up, let alone doing a good job. There is no pride of ownership. As I look out the door of my two room apartment, I see a sign that says "Welcome Rolla". Not "Welcome To Rolla" mind you. This is because the entire population of Rolla changes so often that we need to constantly welcome a whole town of new people that often.

I graduated from UMR in 1994. I didn't want to leave, but I needed a job and found that I had to. I didn't really miss Rolla. Instead I missed my friends. I came back in 1998, and the school friends had gone on to greener pastures. Once again I met a great group of people at UMR. It's a small town, and so friends and coworkers were one in the same. It was the best team I've ever been a part of. But everyone had different goals, and one by one, they found a way to achieve them and left UMR. And once again, I miss my friends.

Yesterday my coworkers came by my office and said goodbye. It was strange, because I didn't know I was going anywhere. But they certainly seemed to know. The ladies of the office cried and hugged me and asked if I was alright. "I'm not going anywhere!" I insisted. But I'm starting to think that maybe they know something I don't.

My job is chaotic and I'm forced to say goodbye to friends and coworkers far too frequently. One by one they left Rolla in search of something better, and it seems that they found what they were looking for. Thinking about all of my old friends who are gone reminds me that I'm not accomplishing my goals. Sure time changes things, but is it really progress? Not if your goals aren't being accomplished, and that's certainly the case for me. I'm still single. I'm still living in a two room apartment, and my garage and workshop is a storage shed. My job has been chaos for the last three years, and shows no signs of change.

Today I said goodbye to Alley Spring, and to Rocky Falls. I waved to Greer Spring and Falling Spring and Turner Mill as I passed by. I took lots of photos of the spring and the depot at Mammoth Spring, Arkansas. Two trains went by when I was there - that was nice. I stood and watched the water falling over the dam for a half-hour, then ate dinner in a town along the highway. At the restaurant, hundreds of miles from Rolla, I saw one of my old friends who had left a long time ago. She looked happy. And instead of saying hello and catching up, I just sat at my table as she left. I didn't want to have to tell her I was still in the same town, still single, still at the same job. I didn't want her to feel sorry for me.

I always wondered if there was anything that all those people who left missed about Rolla. I miss the people, sure, but they have already left. So I think I'll miss the springs the most.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny thing is Rolla MO may be one town that you described but Rolla exists in other towns. Marshall Texas, Jefferson Texas...same story, different verse. It's like you find what you are looking for and you'll find the happiness again.

I don't care that there is nothing to do in Rolla, there is if you are willing to look. The energy here is great and the black hole I came from this is a nice repreve. Trust me, home is where your heart is...mine is here. :)


7:32 PM  

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