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Goodbye, Iowa

August 3, 2012

(A post from the archives)


In 2008, when I decided to move to Iowa, I got a lot of strange looks from people. "Iowa?" they asked. "What's in Iowa?" For me, it was one of two grad schools where I was accepted, the other being Colorado-Boulder. The Linguistics department at Iowa actually contacted me while Colorado just sent me an envelope to send a $200 deposit. So, off to Iowa I went.

Going to Iowa was a huge leap of faith for me because it was a drastic career change with no certainty of working out. I could have easily failed out of grad school (came close a couple times) and been a complete failure far from home. The move itself was physically demanding because the Air Force didn't swoop in and move everything for me. It was the first time in a while that I had to ask friends and family to help box, carry, and unload all my crap, a humbling experience to say the least. The stress of that move also cost me my girlfriend at the time, but that made the story of how I met my wife that much more interesting.

I came to Iowa to start grad school in a completely new field after leaving the Air Force. The IT world just didn't do it for me, so I decided to learn more about linguistics. Learning Japanese is one of my fondest memories, so language seemed like a good place to start a new career. Quickly, I learned that hardcore linguistics is about as useful day-to-day as theoretical physics or mathematics; interesting, but it doesn't help you get laid or buy milk. Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), though, seemed like a very practical, concrete use of everything I learned in grad school. So, that's what I've done since 2009.

When I moved to Iowa, I thought I had experienced all the seasons of the world. I quickly learned that I had never seen real winter. I will never forget my first trip to the grocery in -15 degrees. The sensation of one's nose hair freezing in .02 seconds is awesome. I will not miss shoveling snow.

Iowa does have my favorite thing made of butter. The story of the Butter Cow Lady is truly touching and one of my favorites.

I will always remember Iowa fondly. Grad school is a memory full of stress and complaining but ending with success. My time teaching also started out frustrating but ended bittersweet. I am a better teacher and person for my time there. The people of Iowa are quirky, not as friendly as the South, but not as rude as the North; overall, they are warm in the face of the harsh winters. If not for those winters, Iowa would be a very nice place to live.

I was recently offered a teaching job at the University of Kentucky, so I had to leave Iowa behind. The new job is much closer to family and in one of the most beautiful places in the world. It is also in a red state and much closer to the Appalachian hill people, but no place is perfect. More to come.

Iowa is truly the land of extremes. When I moved there, the 2008 flood (worst flood recorded) was just receding. As I left, the biggest drought since 1936 had just settled in.

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