Since 2001, this day has always inspired reflection. Reflection on the events of a day I know I will never be able to forget and how it changed our world, but for me it has also become a time of personal reflection. Quite unintentionally, September has become a month marking the anniversaries of some of the most defining days of my adult life. On September 11, 2002, I signed the lease on my first apartment in Los Angeles, and so it's a day I remember as the beginning of my time in L.A. On September 24, 2006, I married Eric. September 9, 2007 was my first day at the Getty, which in my mind marks a significant advance in my professional career. So, as you can see, for me this is a month of anniversaries.
A lot can happen in seven years. People always ask if I feel like a city girl now that I've been here for a few years. "Not really," is my usual response. I have gotten used to this city, but I don't think I'll ever reach a point where I feel attached or sentimental about it. Rather, in the last seven years I've become something else: Someone who is just as comfortable cruising up Sunset Boulevard as the four mile road back home. Someone who has taken many a VIP group of big city executives or celebrities through major museum exhibitions but knows just as well what it's like working on the line at Donnelley's. I'm glad I've acquired that versatility, but moving away from one's roots can make them harder to hang on to, and that can be a depressing reality. Over the last seven years I have given that idea a lot of thought, and ultimately have taken a lesson from one of my favorite novelists, Sharyn McCrumb, who is a self-described Cosmic Possum. What in the bloody blazes is that, you ask? As McCrumb puts it,
"The term, coined by Tennessee poet Jane Hicks, (Blood and Bone Remember: Poems from Appalachia, Jesse Stuart Foundation Press, 2005) refers to people of Southern mountain heritage who have acquired modern sophistication without losing touch with their regional origins." She continues, "For Cosmic Possums culture is not an either-or proposition. The trick is to move into the future without letting go of the past, because if you lose your cultural identity, you have nothing to sustain you in the modern rootless world which lurches from one ephemeral trend to another."
Now, I come from the plains of Illinois, not mountains of southern Appalachia, but the point is well-taken. Living in L.A. can be a very homogenizing experience if you let it. People in the city tend to look with disdain or condescension at any region of rural America, and it can be very tempting to simply make yourself into the image of whatever "ephemeral trend" is currently raging. But you can choose to take a different perspective. One good thing about being in a city full of people who are from somewhere else is that you learn to value, take pride in, and appreciate the gift of the past and your own story of "Back where I come from..." That is the outlook I've chosen to take, and based on the frequency with which I'm asked "You're not from around here, are you?" I must be getting it right.
So if--regionally speaking--I'm not exactly a Cosmic Possum, what am I? In 1980 (the year I was born) the schoolchildren of Illinois voted to make the whitetailed deer the state animal. The whitetailed deer does seem appropriate--it's certainly the animal you're most likely to see tripping over the roads and through the cornfields of my native Cumberland County.
...Yeah, that'll do--I'm a Cosmic Whitetail.