More often than not, Cedar Rapids feels like one big strip mall. Most of the green spaces are hemmed in by concrete. The city smells different depending on what flavor of cereal the Quaker Oats factory is churning out, and on sunny Saturdays the streets fill with motorcycles. Sometimes, though, I find things I never expect. Across the river from downtown there is an amphitheater that plays the sounds of Canada Geese over loud speakers every fifteen minutes. Nearby is a sculpture made out of recycled glass that creates a fun-house mirror effect when you stand underneath it. Every time I feel like everything has become homogenous, I find a random stretch of road made out bricks or a charming, vine covered building. While I occasionally wish I'd gone to school in place closer to nature (usually while scrolling through Instagram), Cedar Rapids is teaching me that everything can be interesting, if you let it.
After a long winter, sunny days are a shock to the system. Yesterday, our first official day of summer, my friends and I laid in the grass and took selfies. Somehow we had gone the whole year without getting a single picture of the four of us together. The moment was both sublime and melancholy: one of my friends is transferring to another school, and another is going to be abroad next semester. As I watch the graduation tents go up on the quad, I can't help feeling that quintessential stirring that accompanies every step into the unknown. In just a few days time I'll be on a plane headed for Paris. I'm both excited and stressed, and meanwhile summer has me intoxicated with heady feelings of freedom. Every day for the past few days, the clouds roll in around 4pm. The wind picks up. The temperature drops. The rain falls at an angle, with a force that stings bare skin. Everything is motion. Summer is here, and the world is all a-flutter.
Every day I see pictures of places I want to live someday. The impossibly green pastures of Ireland. The deep, dark conifers of the Northwest. Blue sky stretching above West Texas like a drum. It makes me want to speed up time, run faster, do more. What's lost in the gap between here and there? Every day I face the delusion that I should be somewhere else, when really this is the only place I can be, and the only place I am. I am reminded of this every time I see a familiar face, or double over laughing at something a friend has said. I am reminded on late night pancake runs and Sunday morning conversations with my roommates. Every time the wanderlust catches hold, it's the people that keep me grounded. This is my little place in this big, messy world. I'm not going to waste my time wishing it was somewhere else.