Jen Aceto :: I Found Ease in Oklahoma ::

Creative Non-Fiction

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Despite being born and raised on the coast, I felt most at home among the art deco buildings of downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’ve participated in a number of debates about whether Oklahoma is in the South or the Midwest. My partner, a native South Carolinian, delights in correcting my misconceptions of the South whenever he gets the chance. (It keeps me humble.)

I Found Ease in Oklahoma

I moved to Oklahoma because it was easy. 

After 12 years in Los Angeles, I wanted an easier life. I didn’t want to sit in traffic or live with three roommates anymore. I wanted a slower pace, cheaper rent, and less to do. 

It was easy to find an apartment within my budget in Tulsa because the supply was plentiful. I quickly realized that it took minutes to get anywhere. For the first few months, I always arrived early because I allowed too much time to get somewhere. I laughed at how LA had ingrained itself in me as I stared out the dirty windows of my Honda with time to spare. 

LA was about hustle. We all had to make sacrifices to live there, whether because we had dreams of making it big in the entertainment industry or simply because working for a nonprofit, university, or hospital paid barely enough to get by. Many of us took side gigs to make it work. 

At some point, I internalized that life in a city was supposed to be hard. I grew to love the density, chaos, and even the traffic: it was just the urban background of the life I’d worked to build. Sure, a trip to the grocery store took a little longer, and I had to carry my bags a little further, but it wasn’t a big deal. It was all I knew. 

Most people didn’t understand my decision to move to Oklahoma. They couldn’t comprehend why I would give up a life in sunny southern California to move to what they considered “flyover country.” 

The move itself wasn’t easy, because moving is never easy. But Tulsa quickly and generously offered me a spacious and simple life. Despite the accents and politics, I felt at home immediately. 

The hustle can be good. Some people are made for busy, crowded places. They don’t mind the difficulty– it might even feel easy to them after a while. But I needed a break, and Oklahoma gave me that. 

It is countercultural to choose the easy thing. It was drilled into my subconscious that it is always better to choose the difficult thing, because the gains will be worth it. But sometimes, choosing the easy thing is best. For me, it was exactly what I needed. 

My year in Oklahoma was like taking a deep breath. The plains felt expansive; even the roads were wider. I felt like I could take up space. I moved through the city and the seasons with a deepening conviction that it’s okay not to work so hard to survive. I stared out my windows at the puffy white clouds as the wind ushered them across an impossibly blue sky. I curled up on my couch for hours drinking coffee and reading library books. I sat on my rooftop and watched storms roll in. I literally started bird-watching– that’s how much time Oklahoma gave me back. 

As I prepared to move once again– to another hard and busy place– I thought about how I could hold Oklahoma. I wanted to keep it in me as I returned to the density of the coast. Back in a bustling city, I ache for more room. The people here believe firmly that harder is better, but I remember the things Oklahoma whispered to me in secret.