I am a native of Mississippi. I was born and raised in Jackson and graduated from college in Hattiesburg. With the exception of trips to our neighboring states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida, I never ventured outside the Southeast. After graduation, I did like so many college graduates do and moved back home to begin my career. Over the next five years, I worked three different jobs, all of which left me unfulfilled. In the summer of 2006, I traveled to Austin, Texas, to visit a childhood friend. After an unforgettable weeklong experience in a city unlike anything I had ever seen, I returned home to Mississippi.
In late July, I found myself restless and dreaming about life outside the state. I thought, Maybe it is time to spread my wings.
In February 2007, I took a leap of faith. I packed my car and headed west. I moved in with a friend in his flat in downtown Austin. At the end of March, after a month and a half of job searching, I accepted a position with a California-based bank that was establishing a new operations center in Austin. I was ecstatic! I felt like I had finally broken free from what I felt were the shackles of family and friends that hinder young aspiring college graduates from venturing beyond the comforts of familiar state lines. At the age of 30, I was ready to embark on life on my terms.
I spent six good years in Texas. I made advancements in my career that enabled me to not only live in Austin but Fort Worth and Dallas, too. I experienced many different cultures and met a lot of interesting people from all over the country. I was able to do things and go places I had never dreamed of while living in Mississippi. I found myself only going home for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Finally, a friend asked me, "When are you coming home?" I responded, "Oh, I'll probably get back for Memorial Day." "No," he said, "I mean, when are you coming home, as in back to Mississippi?" I pompously answered, "Man, I am never coming back."
As wonderful as my life was in Texas, I noticed something was missing over the next few years. Even with my career and the blessings that followed, I felt empty. I found myself reminiscing more about life at home in Mississippi. Oftentimes, I would think about my family in Raleigh and my dad toiling away on his farm. I recalled the pine trees and the excessive pollen in the spring. I missed the time I spent on the Reservoir, boating with my friends. I thought about the long, lingering lunches on the patio at La Cazuela on Fortification Street in Jackson. I even missed the humidity and the afternoon thunderstorms that randomly rolled through the days from April to September.
You may hear the phrase "you can never go home," but I do not believe this to be entirely true. After a great time spent in Texas, I have come back home to Mississippi, and I am glad to be back. The state of Mississippi is wealthier beyond words with abundant resources of friendships and hospitality. That is what has brought me home. As rich and vast as Texas and other places may be, they cannot compete with what the Magnolia State has to offer. Thank you for having me back, Mississippi. It is good to be home.
by chadwick easterling | illustration by justin schultz