“It was twenty years ago today,
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play
They've been going in and out of style
But they're guaranteed to raise a smile.
So may I introduce to you
The act you've known for all these years,
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
Well, not quite Sergeant Pepper, but it was twenty years ago today that my life changed in oh, so many ways. Twenty years ago, on July 16 1995, after a day of driving across four states and a night of sleeping on the floor, I got up and started unpacking a U-Haul truck in my first Indianapolis apartment.
Since then, I’ve had 8 cars, 7 jobs, 6 homes, 2 wives, and way too many slices of sugar cream pie. I think I’ve returned to New Jersey less than 2 dozen times in 2 decades, not counting business trips. I’ve made and lost friends out here, and sadly, lost some friends and family in Jersey. I need a GPS to find my way around places that I used to be able to get to in my sleep (particularly on Saturday nights). The people I used to know as kids now have kids of their own, and when I see old friends from the 90s, I sometimes can’t reconcile the person they’ve become with the image I have in my mind from all those years ago.
If somebody told me 20 years ago that I would not only watch the occasional basketball game, but be a rabid fan of the basketball team of a small liberal arts college in the middle of Indianapolis, I would have said you were crazy. Also, there was only one football team that I cared about, and they wore blue uniforms. Turns out, there are a lot more teams out there. I now root for two pro football teams that wear blue uniforms, and both of them have (or had) a quarterback named Manning. Plus, in addition to watching Big Blue on Sundays, I’ve started to watch Big Red on Saturdays. There’s more than just corn in Indiana, or in Nebraska.
Then again, if somebody told me 21 years ago that I would be living at the Crossroads of America, and that crossroads wasn’t in the middle of Times Square, I wouldn’t have thought it possible. Sometimes, I still can’t believe I’m living over 700 miles from everything I knew and loved as a kid, young adult, and aspiring IT professional.
To quote a Talking Heads song: Well, how did I get here?
Let’s set the WABAC machine to the spring of 1995. This “ambitious IT professional” was underpaid and overworked in a small (6 people) consulting business. My girlfriend (later wife, now ex-wife) and I were living together in a not-so-great apartment in a not-so-great house, partially furnished with whatever I picked up from the curb before the trash man got to it. Due to me being a thickheaded German, I was somewhat estranged from my father (sorry, Mom) and wasn’t particularly close with many of my RHPS friends. Let’s see: job sucked, living in a bit of a dump, on the outs with my family, not a lot of friends.
Yep, it was time for a change. The future-ex-mother-in-law was able to get me a phone interview with the Indiana Department of Revenue, and a few weeks later, we came out here to check out apartments. We almost didn’t make the trip, because I was so scared of change. Changing jobs is one thing, changing time zones was something else entirely. To her credit, the ex-wife gave me a not-so-gentle push in the right direction, and forced me to overcome the FUD factor and take a leap of faith. Even after I gave my notice at my old job and told our landlady we were moving, I never really thought it would be for good. I had an understanding with my old boss that I could get my job back anytime I wanted it, and I only signed a six-month lease on our apartment out here. Who knew I would actually learn to call this little bit of flyover country home?
After all this time living in Indiana, I still don’t know how I identify myself: a transplanted Jersey boy, or a Hoosier who grew up on the east coast. There are some things that have remained constant throughout all that time. You can’t get a decent pizza or bagel out here, and you can’t get a glass of real brewed iced tea in New Jersey. People in Indiana drive too slow (except at the IMS), and people in New Jersey talk too fast. And no matter what state I am in (physically or mentally), I will NEVER understand the allure of cornhole.