Well, here I am again, in the place I told myself I would never come back to when I grew up.
I had dreams when I was a kid sitting in that old, rickety desk in the brick tower of Belfield High School. I was going to be a lawyer defending my clients. I had plans to be a politician that would fight for the rights of my fellow man. I pictured myself acting alongside Sandra Bullock and Johnny Depp.
Hey, a girl can dream, right?
One thing was for sure. I always told myself I would move far, far away from this place in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to be anywhere but here.
I think we all have grand dreams of uprooting from our hometown and traveling the world. Even before we graduate from high school, we make plans to find a college as far away from home as possible. After 13 years of sitting in a classroom with the same people for nine months at a time, you would want to run too.
That happened to me. I packed my bags and hightailed it out of here to Jamestown College, now known as University of Jamestown. I spent four years learning about history, political science and “the outside world.” (I wasn’t outside of anything. I was just 180 miles to the east.) Then I came back, telling myself I would only stay in Belfield for a few weeks before finding a job.
I did find one. As I sat on a tractor mowing lawn, I got a call to be a reporter for The Dickinson Press.
I know. That’s what you expect from a ranch girl, doing an interview on a piece of farm equipment.
I wondered how I would be challenged and, honestly, if there was even enough news to cover in my little neck of the woods. My mind was put to rest quickly. I sat at my desk and was told I would be the energy reporter. Enough said.
I found myself at home in the news world. I was, after all, a reporter and editor for three years at my college paper, The Collegian. Journalism was never on the list of ideal careers, but the spark ignited inside of me. Now I can’t see myself doing anything else.
That was almost three years ago. And now I’m back. Dickinson has gone through an interesting transformation. Oil development is obvious, but the city is no longer the little town I left behind when I went to college in 2007. There are parts of the city I don’t recognize. Heck, we are actually recognized as a city.
It’s not just Dickinson that is growing. It’s evident that every community, every essence of life in western North Dakota has been impacted. It could be as little as adding a few more students or rethinking how an entire city must operate.
Ranchers and farmers have to adapt to the changing times, too. I would have never imagined that instead of closing schools, we are actually opening more. Communities are more diverse. We are attracting new business and the ones already here are expanding. This middle-of-nowhere home of mine will never be the same.
I don’t know what it is that keeps pulling me back to this corner of the state. Maybe it is that familiarity, or maybe those roots pulled me back. All I know it feels right to be sitting in this office that was once on the edge of town — soon to be the middle of a growing metropolis. I can’t wait to see how our corner of the state changes, and how our officials handle it. But most of all I can’t wait to tell you how it happens.
Here I go. Baums away.
Baumgarten is the assistant editor of The Dickinson Press. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.