You guys? This is hard.
I haven’t spent any significant amounts of time here since high school, my old friends have scattered to various parts of the country for one reason or another, and so I really feel as if I’m starting over in a new city. In the short time that I’ve been back I’ve managed to find two jobs and procure myself this column, but I’m still trying to figure out how 20-somethings new to the area meet people and get involved in the community.
And oh, it pains me to admit it, but meeting people in Clarksville has so far proved surprisingly harder than I thought it would. And I just don’t understand it.
When I got here about three weeks ago, fresh from 2 weeks in my most recent home of New York City and nine months of gallivanting around Latin America, I had high hopes for a summer—the first in about 5 years—spent in my surrogate home town, the place where I went to middle and high school, the place I swore I’d never live in again.
It’s just that I like cities. Big cities. I like art and music and literature and feminist activism and multiculturalism. For these reasons, I like New York. I like Barcelona. I like Oaxaca and Mexico City—all cities where I have lived or spent much time in since graduating from Northeast in 2003 and heading north of the Mason-Dixon/south of the border.
After nine months with no job I was very very broke. For two weeks I slept on the couch of a friend in Brooklyn, but, just after my cash flow dropped into the teens, I was forced to reassess my choice of residence. I charged a plane ticket to Nashville and came home.
I can admit that small cities have their perks too. A small city is…conquerable. Whereas in New York I will never be able to eat in every restaurant, will certainly never visit every museum, and will only ever manage to be friends or acquainted with a tiny microcosm of the city’s inhabitants, all of those things are more or less doable here in Clarksville. A small city is accessible.
So I thought when I arrived, and shortly thereafter when I expressed my interest in writing this column. I thought, this is a college town. This is a transient town. This is—as my parents keep insisting—a growing and developing and evolving town. But so far I’ve just been baffled by the lack of youthful activity.
On my first night out on my first weekend back I drove down to Franklin Street, where I used to like to hang out when I was underage, and where some students from APSU were holding an art show.
It was warm out, though not yet uncomfortably hot. It was so quiet—the sounds of acoustic guitar and voices were released onto the street and reigned in again when the doors of the Blackhorse and the Front Page opened and closed. There was the scent of something sweet and floral in the air. Magnolias, I thought to myself, having no idea what I was talking about (magnolias just seem southern to me). It was nice. I was excited to be back. I was ready to conquer yet another city.
And then nothing happened.
The bars were more empty than not. “What’s the nightlife like around here?” I asked a lot of people, all of whom exhibited the familiar pleasant willingness to talk to strangers that I missed in New York, and the same attitude of apologetic resignation (Shrug. “This is pretty much it.”) that I hadn’t.
I made a friend—a recent Army recruit who grew up in Long Island, New York and has only been here a month—who was equally baffled. “There’s a university right down the road!” I cried in disbelief. “Where IS everyone?”
And I’ve more or less been asking that question ever since, as I search for coffee shops to write in and events to go to and continue to fail to have meaningful encounters with anyone my age.
But you know what? I like a challenge.
My first week here I used the usual mediums—Facebook, Craigslist, Google, asking around—to find out where to go and what to do. With aforementioned results. So I just spent my second Saturday night—it was rainy and cold and I was frustrated and lonely—back on the computer.
With renewed resolve I recalculated my plan for re-creating a life—a social one, let’s hope—that doesn’t rely on the apparently flailing bar scene. I joined a 20-somethings meet up group, I found somewhere to volunteer, I resolved to start a pick up kick ball league (they’re big in New York).
I’m determined to make the most of this summer. Meanwhile, I’m taking suggestions.