This article was originally published in the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of Our Jackson Home: The Magazine.
Our lives are marked by transition, and our feet don’t grow roots to tell us when to stay put. At every new season we find ourselves uncertain about what a step in a new direction might mean for us. Maybe we are desperate for change to lift us out of our monotony or afraid we took a wrong step somewhere or disappointed by our careers. Maybe it’s the success-driven culture we are raised in—but sometimes choosing to stay put is the least appealing option. Especially in Jackson, Tennessee.
In this town, my answer to “What are you doing with your art degree?” isn’t met with a multitude of appealing options for a designer or a photographer or a writer. It isn’t a city creative people flock to, it isn’t written about on many travel blogs, and it isn’t many college students’ first pick for their post-grad plans.
It is, however, a place to grow.
In sharing the mission of Our Jackson Home, co-founder Luke Pruett quoted Wendell Berry, who writes that community is “the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives.”
Slowly, my paralyzing doubts about deciding to stay here a year ago when I graduated are being outweighed by signs of growth. I didn’t stay here because it was comfortable or because I was afraid of a new place. I stayed because the people I am sharing life with are redefining and exceeding my expectations with a sense of community and belonging far more fulfilling than the confines of a life dictated by career.
The stories of this community show this city has a pulse and that growth is taking place. These stories are only possible because someone decided to stay and find growth here.
This city has its fill of brokenness, of crime, of homelessness, and prejudice, but in the people around me I’ve found people who are rooted here and seek justice, reconciliation, beauty, and life. I am watching friends decide to stay in a place, fill in empty spaces, and build bridges.
I like what the poet Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote: “There is much beauty here, for everywhere there is much beauty.”
I can’t know if I will be here long enough to see if this city and the things I’m invested in will become everything I’ve dreamed. For now, I’m thankful that all around me I see green sprouts shooting up from the dirt. I’m thankful that even when my feet don’t find stable ground, I can put my hands to work at something that might take roots and grow beyond my years. And when it’s time to go, I’ll leave this place with my sense of community transformed.
Courtney Searcy likes to design things, take pictures, and write words that tell good stories about their community. Jackson became home after she graduated from Union University in 2014, where she studied Graphic Design and Journalism. One-half of Souvenir Design Company, she currently works as a freelance graphic designer. She thinks the best things in life are porch swings, brunch, art, music, and friends to share it all with.
Header image by Courtney Searcy.