A typical conversation with an acquaintance/customer/professor/friend this summer:

Nosey Person: Are you in school?

Me: No, I just graduated. I’m going to grad school in the fall.

NP: Oh good, in Michigan?

Me: No, in Arkansas!


from michigan to arkansasMichiganders love their state, there’s no denying that. And I’m with ’em — I’m sure my classmates get annoyed of how often I talk about the lakes and the people and the weather. However, the responses I received from strangers about my moving to the South were astounding. It’s called adventure, people, and it’s more than climbing up sand dunes or paddle boarding or taking a drive north!

When I applied to MFA programs, I wasn’t just making a commitment to be a writer (something I’d been very good at avoiding in the past), or deciding that I wanted to go from twelve years of schooling to 2-3 more. I was deciding to move away from everything I’d known and become a person so wholly undefined from anyone around me that maybe I could finally figure out who I am (besides a writer, of course). I applied east, I applied west, and tried my damnedest to stay away from The Mitten and anything familiar.

The distance was never a question for me; it was never a reason to stay. It was a reason to go.

By the time people around me (including the nosey people from the ceaseless scenario above) questioned my move, I was already used to the idea.

It was not my intention to become someone different.

It was not my intention to change everything I’d ever been — to stop being the people-person, the deadline-pusher, the analyzer, the pun-provider.

It was my intention to discover who I am when I am completely undefined by the people I love. The people I am comfortable with. The people who can guess my next bad joke or what outfit I’ll wear on Sunday or that I’ll put off every project I’ve ever had until the night before it’s due. The people who know me better than I know myself so much that I don’t really need to know myself.

And with that, it was my intention to realize myself as a writer when I don’t have a slew of other labels trying to define me. And I’m still working on that. But the move was never a question of why. It was a question of why not.

The most overwhelming thing about moving 1,000 miles away from home?

The overwhelming goodness of people.

The months before I left, I was  terrified to “replace” my friends and family. It turns out moving 1,000 miles away some Pinspiration...has a profound effect on 1) figuring out who your “people” really are (i.e. who calls you every Friday at 4 PM, or texts you about how the peppers on her Jimmy Johns don’t taste right), and 2) finding new people who comfort you in both similar and different ways than the people of your past.

People who comfort me in different ways than the people of my past: writers. I try to stay away from writers. Artists of any kind, really. Sure I’ve always immersed myself in the arts — it’s hard not to when everything I am decent at (besides the occasional digital organization obsession) is what people would consider creative. Now that’s a conversation for a different post, but what I am trying to get at is this: there are worse things than surrounding yourself with writers. 

They know when something really, truly sucks.

They talk about books. A lot.

They generally excel at sitting on your porch with a beer in hand anytime you need.

They understand when you say you need to sit on the couch with your dog and just read or write.

They understand when you need to go to the bar, or have a bonfire, or really anything but read or write.

They know when something really, truly is better than anything you’ve written before (the writers you want to keep close, anyway).

I have far digressed from my goal of this post: to tell you why I decided to move and what it has been like for me. But, like anything I write or say or think or even read, it comes back to people. My past people, my current people, and heck the people of me.

If you like what you’ve read, check out my personal blog, beccahawkins.wordpress.com, or keep visiting this week!

— B. Hawk


2 thoughts on “Going the distance

  1. I am currently teaching my 7th graders about the difference between social identifers and personal values…the first is how you are defined on the outside with limited choices by you and the second is all about what choices you make for yourself, deliberately, and those values are what you truly prize about yourself. Your words here are another way to express it….but much more beautifully..look forward to sharing your words with my 13 year olds! Love, Auntie Beth

  2. Pingback: Ode to Michigan | Bees Knees

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