A Love Letter to Gillette

“You’re moving where?

“This place will crush your spirit.”

“Why here of all places?”

“How did you find this place?”

 

When I graduated college with my journalism degree and enough angst to put a cheesy young adult novel to shame, I set out for an adventure unlike anything I had ever fathomed before. At 21, I had lived in North Central Wisconsin my entire life. I was ready for something, somewhere different — it didn’t particularly matter where.

Some of my friends were headed off to LA, New York, Nashville, or someplace else you’ve heard of a time or two. I, on the other hand, was bound for Gillette, Wyoming, “the energy capital of the nation,” for a newspaper reporting job.

After email blasting my resume to virtually all openings on journalismjobs.com (the equivalent of closing your eyes, twirling your finger and pointing to a place on the map) and interviewing for various jobs across the country for a few weeks, this paper’s editor contacted me, saying she liked my college newspaper clippings. And after a few phone conversations, she offered to fly me out to Campbell County for another interview and to see the area I would be writing about.

I was pretty stoked — someone was interested enough to fly me across the country! I can still feel the giddiness I had that day as the little puddle jumper airplane descended on a flat-as-a-pancake landscape so different from what I was accustomed to.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that this feeling of newness, of promising adventure, is addicting and is at least partially what finally brought me to my current job, which I plan on making a career.

After I got the job and walked in my graduation ceremony, I packed up everything I could into my Taurus just a few days later and headed on the 14-hour drive completely alone, feeling the freest I’d ever been. I settled into a dumpy little apartment and made a new home for myself surrounded by the wide open unknown.

But by the way I talk about my time in Gillette now to people curious enough to ask, you’d think I grew up there … which in certain ways, I truly did.

That transient coal and oil town and all the kind, curious assortment of folks in it taught a vagabond soul lessons she wasn’t even aware she needed to learn at the time — the most important one being how to be alone without being lonely (which, let me tell you, is sometimes a clumsy one). When you learn to enjoy your own company and stop seeking the approval of others, you’ve truly made it.

I met all sorts of people from different walks of life — of course a quirky group of journalists and photographers, families searching for a fresh start, single mothers who got just that, the friendliest group of city officials and police, the amazing people I would come to call my ‘Gillette family,” a TV reporter who was also getting her start in the wild west, and entirely too many men who decided to try out Tinder in Coal Country.

I learned more about writing than you could in a classroom from “the people on the banks.” In this day and age when everyone has a boner for social media and website clicks, I can’t help but feel like through my short time in Gillette, I experienced something far more real than all that.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love where I’ve finally wound up, but I will always look back incredibly thankful for every step along the way — with a special soft spot for this one.

So although I didn’t stay, no, Gillette most certainly did not crush my spirit. If anything, it enlivened it.

 

Peace, love & fairy dust,

— YourKayla

 

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