Opinion: No Small Ponds

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Cameron Gorman

One of the most vivid memories of my senior year of high school is pressure. Of course, in high school, “pressure” dredges up a lot, from image issues to self-esteem problems to depression. 

But above all else, for me, pressure meant getting out. There was a sense of needing to get out of the place we’d all grown up, the place where the sidewalks were all burned into our memories and peripheral visions.

I remember watching my friends who were headed to big cities with more than a little jealousy. It just seemed so important. So big, so new, so shiny. After all, everyone knows that if you want to make it anywhere, you’ve got to make it there. Somewhere people can see what you’re doing and feed into it. Where chances can take flight, can grow into larger and more important things. That twisted, inflated sense of high school entitlement and importance was weighing heavy on my mind.

It took nearly a year and a half for it to fade — for me to stop caring as much about distance and start to focus on my future. Kent started to truly feel like home; so much so that when I found out I was going to be in New York City for the summer, working on an internship, I wasn’t entirely ready to leave. And only now, a few days from my departure, have I started to realize how much I’ll miss Ohio.

Sure, it’s still fun to imagine yourself singing one of the many ballads about the greatness that awaits one on the streets of the city, but the reality of the world has shifted. It’s no longer all about where you are, it’s about what you’re doing. The community, the work, the effort. The more time I’ve spent in the moment, listening to other’s stories, the more time I’ve let myself stop and breathe. The more I’ve lived in the present — instead of striving for the next step — the more content I’ve felt. 

There is heart in the smallest corners of the world, and the thrum of creativity is there, too. A few weekends ago, I found myself at a poetry reading held every year in downtown Kent — the Jawbone reading. The tone of the evening was somber, and much of the work read memorialized the loss of a major poetic figure in Kent’s scene, Maj Ragain. 

It was nothing short of beautiful. Words moved me, songs made me cry. And, toward the end of the night, a few poets told the group that they had come all the way from outer states to hear the reading. At first, I felt surprised. Why would anyone, I thought, echoing jokes I’ve heard countless times around here, want to come to Ohio? But, right there, listening to the quiet murmur of the room, I stopped myself.

What made that little room in Kent so different than the little rooms I hope to frequent in New York, searching for places to read things I’ve written down? What made those thoughts and songs and words any less or more impactful? What made the way the clouds moved in Ohio, full of rain, any less wonderful? 

There are no big fish in little ponds to me, not really. No ponds at all. There’s just a river, widening and narrowing and running, and the things picked up along the way. So, yes, I’m glad I’m coming back to Ohio at the end of the summer. I think I’ll miss it here.

Cameron Gorman is a columnist. Contact her at [email protected].