place is all: Liberty

This blog post is brought to you in three parts.

I. A missing jogger, a body in a portable toilet.

Last Friday, a construction worker found an unidentified body in a portable toilet next to a junior high school in the Kansas City suburb of Liberty, Missouri. Today the body was confirmed to belong to Chad Rogers, a 30-year-old marathon runner, youth group leader, and stay-at-home dad of an infant son. He left for a run at 8:30 p.m. last Monday without any means of communication, and after being reported missing, hundreds of volunteers helped the police on their search. Police determined that there were no signs of foul play, but the cause of death won’t be announced until the autopsy results have been fully analysed. The Facebook page with over 37,000 likes called “Bring Chad Rogers Home” was renamed “Chad Rogers Is Home.”

II. Goodbye Liberty

I don’t know Mr. Rogers or his family, although I’ve lived at William Jewell College in Liberty for three of my university years. I’m moving from Liberty into Kansas City on Thursday, and I haven’t exactly been bouncing-off-the-walls thrilled. You see, I have a condition in which I fall in love with places instead of people. Generally those places are cities such as Boston or London or Heidelberg or even Cambridge, where I spent my junior year abroad.  In fact, I was clueless that I had grown attached to Liberty until last month. My early memories of living in Liberty in 2009 upon my move to college are ridden with insecurity and disappointment, a reality check that university was not nearly as glamorous as depicted in the literature (particularly when you’ve got no money and the whole making-new-friends thing doesn’t magically become easy when you’re eighteen). But after I found a job in Kansas City in May, and then found an apartment last week, I’ve suddenly realized that I don’t want to leave Liberty.

Why should I be so unwilling to leave Liberty? It is, after all, only a forty minute drive from my apartment. Missing my classes, professors, and friends are certainly a part of the longing. But then there’s the Senior House where I would spend all of my evenings with books out in the lobby, allowing for the fluidity of studying and chatting with whatever friend happened to walk past. I doubt that I’ll ever be able to recapture that communal living environment.

And then there’s the city of Liberty itself. When I began jogging through the streets near William Jewell, by the houses that slowly became increasingly large and scarce as the town broke into countryside, I felt let down. I had just returned from my year in England, and Clay County was no match for Cambridgeshire (not even a match for the Ozarks, where I had grown up). And yet, along came July 2013 and preparations for my big move, and I couldn’t help but acknowledge that much of my sadness was thanks to the fact that I would no longer be able to jog in Liberty, to the Nature Sanctuary or Stocksdale Park, those places where I could find solitariness with my thoughts.

III. Goodbye jogging

Perhaps by definition, my inclination toward nostalgia is problematic, though even more so in recent events. Despite my desire to soak up every last moment to run in Liberty before Thursday, I’ve been deliberately avoiding my old running trail. The area of my jogs is the area where Mr. Rogers used to run, and the place where the police and search groups focused their attention. Although unexpectedly found Mr. Rogers two miles away, they also happened across another body, another dead jogger. I’m not an especially scared person, but the news has stunned me.

It’s become increasingly difficult to sort out and analyze these thoughts upon entering that in-limbo early-twenties adult world, but laying them out with words is one way to organize and (an attempt to) concretize them. I haven’t come to a conclusion yet, but what a violent way to say goodbye to Liberty.

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