To become managing editor of an alternative, “hip” and inclusive publication such as The Free Weekly would be an honor in any circumstance. But to hold the position for such a publication in Northwest Arkansas is especially exciting. Take it from a girl who moved into town not knowing what to expect, what I have found here is more than I could have ever imagined.
From that first day in June 2011 when I came rolling into Fayetteville in my old Dodge Stratus, I’ve had discussions with others who inhabit our area about some unexplainable force, spirit and energy that makes it feel like entering Fayetteville means coming home again. Although I am a spiritual person in many ways, I like to believe the people are what bring this town to life.
When my husband of five years and I were released from our military obligations in Missouri, we didn’t know where we would end up, although we knew we didn’t want it to be a small town where neither of us felt fulfilled. We researched and researched towns across the country, from Arizona to Maine, and found many great places we could see ourselves calling home. But every time we looked more into a location, something seemed off and missing, although often we weren’t sure exactly what.
From what we could recognize, it seemed we could choose a town with progressive ideals and an open and welcoming spirit, but the progressiveness had gone to the inhabitants’ heads, and some pockets because the price of living was astronomical. Or, you could live in a small area with a quaint, quiet lifestyle that afforded you tranquility, but little room for flexibility in beliefs and personal growth. Not to mention the job market in many places at this time was still on the fringe of stable.
And then I looked at Fayetteville. Granted, it wasn’t completely random as my husband’s family were all born, raised and will most likely die in Eastern Arkansas, but for me, an Illinois native with dreams of traveling the world, I never saw myself living in Arkansas. But the more I read, the more intriguing the idea of moving to Fayetteville became.
There was a university that has national recognition, a co-op that sold natural and organic foods, local and unique stores galore, a job market to speak of to include main hubs of some very profitable corporations and the cost of living was within reason. Could it be? I asked myself, thinking I had known all there was to know about Arkansas. It was as if progressive and entrepreneurial people from around the nation were being drawn to this place. We must go, too!
So we did. We drove into Fayetteville on that hot June day with our U-Haul and Miniature Schnauzer in tow, ready to start our new life. As the manager of our new apartment complex was finishing up our paperwork, she told us when she left Missouri and crossed the state line into Arkansas she felt a rush of excitement overcome her. It was as if she was home.
Although I was excited the day I moved here, I didn’t feel the change instantaneously, but it has definitely happened. I now am proud to claim Northwest Arkansas — and Fayetteville — as my home, my sanctuary, the place I want my future children (if they come around) to experience, because I want them to have the best this part of the country can offer. And that’s what I believe this area is.
The economy supports itself while those who make it up support each other, and nonprofit groups for bettering the community abound. Sustainable practices are praised, rewarded and worked toward. You can ride your bike to the mall from the other side of town, and then back again to the university to attend class. If you don’t like the mall, there are tons of amazing options for local designers and clothes and second-hand and consignment stores line the main streets. On any given night you can get your live music fix with bands that have talent, style and originality. Not to mention I have the opportunity to be a part of an awesome weekly publication that provides a broad and open-minded perspective on local happenings and covers what really matters in our area — the people.
This is the type of place I wish I could have called my own growing up, but still feel comfortable doing just that because of the welcoming and loving people I’ve met since moving here. Many more will come looking for all of these qualities and more in a community, and will find themselves pleasantly surprised by what this area has to offer. When they do, I will welcome them with open arms, as I was welcomed. And now I feel like I can officially say to them, and you the reader, “I love Fayetteville. I love Northwest Arkansas. I love my home.”