New York To Arkansas: My First Impressions
I’m a detail-oriented person, and I tend to make very calculated decisions.
For instance, there was a white and sand color scheme for the wedding we attended in Tulum. I had to buy a blazer because, as you can imagine, working from home as a freelance writer doesn’t require me to dress up often. I searched at least 10 websites; my criteria included not exceeding $100, unstructured design, and free, or very cheap, shipping. I found the perfect blazer at Uniqlo but I waited to buy it. I waited for sales, markdowns, the possibility of another perfect blazer appearing. But finally, roughly 2 weeks before the trip, I pulled the trigger and bought the blazer. It was the perfect fit, the perfect color, and it kept me fashionable yet cool during the outdoor ceremony. Perhaps the average guy would’ve just ordered the first thing he saw, or enlisted the help of a skilled retail sales associate, or just winged it with whatever he had in his closet. But not me. I research my decisions and make damn sure I’m ready to move forward.
The same can’t be said for Arkansas. In 9 days, I’m packing up my belongings and moving, along with my husband, to Bentonville, Arkansas—a place I visited for the first time last week.
This doesn’t exactly factor into my calculated strategy. When I first moved to New York, I saved for months, I estimated my biweekly pay so I could negotiate an adequate salary, I researched crime and rent costs in different neighborhoods, and I stepped out of my U-Haul with more knowledge of the city than most natives. But no, not this time. This move is a corporate one, spurred by my husband’s promotion, and regardless of what my research produces, it’s still happening.
There’s two ways I can look at this move. Coming from New York, I can walk in with my nose turned up, with the impression that Bentonville will never measure up to all that Gotham has to offer.
Arkansas is a place where people include lengthy Bible verses in their professional email signatures.
Arkansas is a place where people name their businesses after Jesus, or other religious figures or symbols.
Arkansas is a place where you're more likely to see a Hispanic or Indian person before you see one who looks like me.
Arkansas is a place where people speak loudly and with heavy drawls.
Arkansas is home to a gas station chain called Kum & Go.
Arkansas is filled with every food chain you see advertised during the TODAY show (I’d seriously never seen a Red Robin until this trip.)
Or I can be optimistic.
The estimated mortgage on my new house is less than half of my current New York rent.
For $50 a month, I can work out in a two-story gym complex complete with an Olympic pool, indoor track, and racquetball court.
People actually wave and say hello in Arkansas.
There’s a Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week twice a year, a Bentonville Film Festival sponsored by Wal-Mart and Coca-Cola, and a Modern Art Museum, which is currently running a black power exhibit. (As I write this, I’m researching how to become the region’s top cultural influencer.)
I’m choosing the latter POV. My move to Arkansas, like all my other moves in life (i.e. Ohio, Maryland, Florida, etc.), represents an opportunity to see a different part of the country and experience a different way of life. Sure, the heart of the publishing industry might be thousands of miles away and there isn’t a Starbucks every 5 feet. But there is a chance for me to save money, achieve some of my bigger life goals, and perhaps have an even bigger impact in my field on a local or regional scale.
Of course, I was worried about diversity. Moving to a red state during these times doesn’t exactly top the list of most coveted activities. I found myself scanning every stranger’s face when we walked into a restaurant or onto a car lot. Were they looking at us because we looked different? Were they intrigued or curious? Were they cautious? Did they see big money signs on our foreheads? But after spending a week there, interacting with locals in various settings, I was reassured that this is a welcoming community. I can’t predict the future, but I have a great feeling, and I’m open to whatever Northwest Arkansas wants to bring into my life.
So, first impressions of Arkansas? It’s a much smaller place, for sure, but in no way is it a downgrade.