i'll be honest, all summer i kind of dreaded coming back to school. i didn't want to come back to reality. i wanted to live in the safety nest i had built for myself all summer at my parents' house with my sister by my side each and every night. i was scared. missoula thus far has been a place i've come to as a freshmen not knowing a single person but always having one person to have my back when i was lonely and again as a sophomore with an entire life i'd made for myself and with that person there physically. i came back this time as a junior to the life i'd built here for two years, but very differently than the previous two years. on my own maybe more noticeably than ever before. i was scared.
ten days later, and while i've discovered that, yes, it is in every way as lonely if not more so than i expected, that loneliness is kind of welcoming. i had no idea what it was going to be like to move into an apartment nor how different it would feel than a dorm. in the nights i've had alone, the apartment all by myself, i sincerely felt like i was alone, with only myself for entertainment. unlike the dorms, where i always felt like i was surrounded by two hundred people even in my own room. initially it was weird and involved a lot of talking to myself and the occasional phone call to hear another person's voice, but then it slowly became invigorating and exciting. i finished my homework by 4pm, i read a book for an hour every night, i made myself dinner, i assembled my own furniture and began tackling some pinterest DIY projects for my room (SO EXCITED), i cleaned my bathroom and did the dishes, i drank a lot of tea, and i wrote a lot. alone can be lonely, but hanging out with myself has become my favorite new hobby. it's a little bit like getting to know myself again.
another thing i realized this week as well was just how much missoula (and montana) has come to define me lately. i was skeptical about how much life i had, in fact, left for just myself and how much of missoula was still all my own. i guess when you build a life for yourself over the course of a year and then another person becomes a part of it the next year, there were a lot of gray areas i wasn't sure were still just "mine" anymore. what a silly thought.
the thing about montana is that i went into it as a freshmen expecting a lot of the same culture, people, and experiences i have in idaho. i expected hippies galore, outdoor recreation aplenty, and a whole lot of coffee shops, but nothing very new or different. missoula definitely didn't disappoint my expectations, in fact, missoula has by far exceeded them and surprised me in so many ways. there are hippies galore, but they are 1000% hippies who are genuinely and passionately themselves, not a select few playing the part. in fact, i don't even think i knew what a true hippie was until i came to montana. there's outdoor recreation, but the mountains are bigger and the rivers are closer and you'll never cross a bridge in town without spotting kayakers or rafters in the river who will wave with the biggest grin you've ever seen plastered across their face. the "outdoorsy" don't just love the outdoors, they are the outdoors and don't just spend the occasional weekend out in the woods, they are in them every single day. everyone here is filled with a passion tenfold of what i've found in idaho and you see it in the eyes of missoulians that they love their lives and best of all, themselves. montana can't be described except to say that it is just so far and beyond what comes to mind when you think 'montana' and it is truly a place of crazy, happy passionate people that are full of so much life. i mean, where else in the country do classes get cancelled when the mountains get a foot of powder, a sixty degree day in the sun long after spring was supposed to arrive equals the entire pasty population of missoula coming out and laying out on the still-snowy-in-places beach, and festivals happen just about every single weekend dedicated to hemp, tye-dye, and music?
missoula has become a home, a different one than the one i was born into, and a special home because it's the first one i chose for myself. while the gray areas of what used to be 'my world' are still there and there are memories scattered on every street block, it doesn't feel any emptier or anything less than it was. i'm growing to know myself again in a way i couldn't at home and loving the space that being alone provides. in fact, i think for a while, i might be my favorite person to spend my saturdays and tuesday nights with.