ScreenshotA small-town newspaper, propped in the blue folds of Appalachian hills as they flattened toward the Piedmont, ran my life for one year, one month and nine days.

So I was there for a year, and then there was this three- or four-week whirlwind of applications and interviews and calls, and a whole new life swallowed me up. I was covering Valentine’s Day weddings at city hall when I got the offer; I had to duck outside and keep my voice down. Then everything that was about my life, suddenly wasn’t.

It is so strange to miss something when you were anxious to leave it. Even stranger to miss something when you don’t want it back.

But I do miss it. I don’t miss the constant, low-level longing for city noise, or the job, or the shallow things, like driving 30 minutes for Starbucks.

But I do miss the people who surrounded me, and I wish I’d accepted more invitations, walled myself off less. I miss the possibilities, all the things I could’ve done. In a town that small, I should’ve made it to everything. Instead, I tried a fraction, and spent the rest of the time in my apartment or up the mountain in Boone, wishing for something — somewhere — else.

So I’m writing my advice to someone else in a similar situation, or maybe to myself, in this one:

Savor it. Whatever it is. Wear yourself out with experiences; exhaust every possibility. Be afraid, but don’t let the fear consume everything.

Whatever this is, you only get to do it once.