Written by Mary Sellers
I recently returned to Jackson after having gone to college and subsequently staying an extra year in Oxford, MS. It was a strange return—I remember crying on the way home because of the empty room I was leaving behind, the memories that seemed to cease their glitter as soon as I removed all of my pictures from the walls. The room was bare, and I could see the thumbtack spots from my posters, the dust that had collected in the corners like small, grey clouds, my roommates’ faces.
But I moved, because deep down it was the right thing to do. I needed a fresh start because I wasn’t growing anymore in Oxford. I’d become stilted and a little depressed, and however much I still miss it, even now, it was just my time.
I was afraid of Jackson. Having grown up here, gone to school, and left, I never thought I’d be returning. Two years ago I would have literally laughed in your face. I’m only here for a year (well, that’s the plan, at least), but I was nonetheless terrified of losing myself, of becoming someone who I’d hate, who my Oxford self would hate. But instead, I found the warmth of friends, and for the entire first month, reconnected with some of my oldest acquaintances. I went to dinner, got lost in new places, and generally spent way too much money. But it was something I needed—a re-connection with the place I’d grown up in but never really experienced as an adult. It’s a completely different thing being old enough but young enough to enjoy the new Jackson. Luckily, I’m right in that sweet spot.
And to my surprise, it’s incredibly fun. The Fondren area in particular is astoundingly cool; the restaurants are innovative and young adult-friendly; the bars here give a few of my Oxford favorites a run for their money, even. I’ve embarrassed myself at Karaoke, I’ve gone to a street concert series, and I’ve sipped margaritas on the porch of Babalu, surrounded by people that I respect and admire. It’s a warm place, and vibrant, too.
I live alone, which I’ll admit has been an adjustment. But I wouldn’t trade my location for anything. I can skip across the street to McDade’s at any point during the day, which feels strangely nostalgic—I’ve never been able to walk to the grocery store before. The cashiers are coming to recognize me, even greet me, and I them. I take advantage of the plethora of coffee shops that are scattered around town. As a writer, I welcome a nice office filled with the nutty aroma of coffee beans and subdued keyboard typings. At night, I sit outside in my porch chair and listen to the shocking collection of cicadas around my house.
It’s still an adjustment, but I’m glad to say that Jackson is feeling more and more like home each and every day. It’s taken time, but thanks to a strong support group of friends, and my own desire to rediscover my hometown for all that she’s worth, I think I can finally say that I’m trying for happy.
Jackson: photographs by Ken Murphy is available now for purchase. To order a copy, call Lemuria Books at 601.366.7619 or visit us online at www.lemuriabooks.com. Ken Murphy will be at Lemuria on Tuesday, December 23 at 11:00 to sign and personalize copies of Jackson. Don’t miss it!