Idaho has changed me.
It's been five years since I was dumped in this town, a lonely, angry, and depressed freshman, bitter that I was in a small town in the middle of nowhere America. I remember looking at the giant billboard that used to sit outside of Rexburg that said, "Rexburg--America's heartland" or America's family community. Something like that. America's heartland? This empty nothing is the heart of America? Give me back my Canada. Give me my home and native land. Anything but this. But I wanted out of Canada, and this was what I got.
Back then I hated Idaho. I hated the tumbleweed that rolled down the street to show that I was alone in a desolate country (funny enough, I haven't seen any tumbleweed roll down any Rexburg streets since then...God's humor...). I hated how there were no malls in Rexburg. I hated how foreign the campus was. How there were no other Asians, and that the only reason the Japanese kid and I waved at each other was because we were both Asian. I hated the way the doors in the McKay library opened the wrong way, and the taps in the washrooms there didn't turn the way they were labeled. I hated how no one understood what I meant by washroom, and how I had to start speaking "American". I hated how I started saying "yup" and "uh huh" instead of "you're welcome". I hated ward activities. I hated how girls would be shocked that I was still 17 and then not take me seriously because of my age and because I wasn't an RM. I hated how everyone would pester me about going on a mission. I hated it all. I tried to find beauty here but was so caught up in my own misery that I couldn't see any of it.
The years have passed, and I'm something a little different. I won't deny that the darker side of me is still there, perhaps biding its time for a return. I see its head everytime I rant and criticize but something is different about how I feel about Idaho.
In late May of this year I had the option of going home for the seven week break, but I went against everything and decided to stay in Idaho, in Rexburg. At first it was the five of us in our new apartment--Dan, Eric, Nathan, Chandler and I-- and then Chan left, followed by Nathan for a while, then Eric. By the time it was just Dan and I sitting around the TV watching Michael Phelps win gold after gold, I had gotten used to the quiet of the town, the emptiness of campus that was strangely satisfying. I didn't want to admit it, but I liked the slowness of my life.
Then the unthinkable happened. I returned to "civilization", going to LA to enjoy the sun baked beaches and to look for America or myself in America through my wandering. But while I was there, I found myself missing Rexburg, missing Idaho and the nothing, the stillness of it. Why I don't know.
When I got off the bus in Rexburg, the air was familiar, comforting in a strange way. My home away from home--wherever home is now. Now the town fills up with college students continuing where they left off, or to start brand new from High School. I look at the freshman and think back to myself, scared and angry those years ago. Now I'm older, half adopted by the Rexburg I hated. I look at the returning students with a hint of disdain, irritated by their moving in, irritated that their movement ushers in the semester will begin again and that satisfying emptiness of the town will be disturbed. I almost want to shout at them, "GO AWAY! THIS IS MY TOWN! GET OUT OF HERE!" as though they would hear, as though they would realise that they were ruining Rexburg for me.
Oh Idaho. What have you done to me?