There and Back Again (Why I Left Tulsa and Came Back)

About ten years ago, I left Tulsa. I left after giving the city ten years of my life. I was living with my then girlfriend who would later marry me and give me two beautiful children and five years together before our divorce. I’m not an easy person to live with. I wish life would have turned out a whole lot differently, but it did not. But here is the story of what happened when I left Tulsa.My then girlfriend and I were on the couch at our two story home where we were at the end of a failing production of one of my favorite plays, Humble Boy. Our lead actors walked out of the production at the end of the show a week before our opening performance at the Dennis R Neill Equality Center. We were on the couch, talking to each other about being happy in Tulsa. I asked her, “Are you happy here?” and she said “No, are you?” and I said no. I think it was part trying to live a creative life in Tulsa and a life that was completely out of the way of the constant criticism that is received from doing anything.
I was stranded in Tulsa more than coming here willingly. Leaving college after a year of being an assistant manager at a hotel there in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I packed everything into my Honda Accord and moved to Glenpool to live temporarily with my mother. The plan was to go on and move to Los Angeles. It was the logical next step. My transmission died and I was here without a car. Lost and looking for a direction, a job opened up with the Sapulpa Community Theatre as their general manager and I spent the next five to seven years in the Tulsa community making great art.
At the end of that time, I was looking for more. That more came in the form of a trip to Chicago, Illinois. My ex-wife and I sold everything we owned and loaded up the back of a truck with all the rest of our belongings. We moved to Chicago singing showtunes all the way and driving up to Chicago. When we made it to Chicago, under the suggestion of a friend, we went to a housing service. (As a note, when you go to Chicago again to find a home, just walk around the neighborhood you want to live in and look for signs). The housing person took us to three different houses. One was half done. One was really stinky and bad, and one was semi done. We got a place in Chicago for $700 dollars which is almost unheard of for price. But we were able to get through to live in a place that was habitable, but it wasn’t great. We lived poor. I walked to work. My wife got a job at Evanston, and I couldn’t get work. I finally got a job at a staffing agency and my wife was let go. We couldn’t get jobs together and therefore, could not get on our feet. I was working a pretty steady job when I worked with City Staffing, so that was good. We both worked shows. We both walked when we didn’t have train money. We starved. We ate. We learned how to live on very little.
My ex-wife told me that we were going to be pregnant with our first child and we moved back to Oklahoma. Because there was bad blood with Tulsa, we moved to Oklahoma City to try our hand there. We came back. We were poor. We relied on the kindness of others. We cooked food in the fireplace. We read from candlelight. We fought. It was not a very good time in our world. One night while watching “How I Met Your Mother” my daughter decided to make an entrance. And we had a little baby. One of our very own. I got a job as an Insurance Customer Service Agent. I worked there. My ex-wife stayed home taking care of our child. I created a theatre company called Valkyrie Theatre which did horror themed plays.
While I was starting to build a live in Oklahoma, I received a call from a friend saying that he was going to leave his teaching job in Marion, Arkansas, right outside of Memphis, Tennessee. I had to raise money do it and raise money to join a program to become a teacher. I had to take test to prove I could read, write and math. And I had to drive long ways back and forth to do a teacher program. I taught a theatre program and managed a performing arts center. I was able to participate in concerts for John Anderson and Barrett Baber. I was able to bring high school musicals to the general public. I was able to learn a ton about what to do and what not to do. I was able to help students achieve scholarships to college. I was able to do great things. I believe that they may have been at the cost of my marriage. My marriage fell a part and I was left with only one option of stay six hours away in a two bedroom house with a teachers salary as the drama teacher, or be close to my kids. I chose to walk away and be closer to my kids.
For the past two years, I’ve been here in Tulsa. I’ve been struggling. I’m in a good situation, but it’s hard and tumultuous. It’s walking on a tightrope of financial stability. It’s trying to peddle your ideas. It’s moving on from here. I keep telling this story, and this story keeps haunting me. Is where I’ve been any more important than where I’m going. Right now, I’m sitting in my house searching for jobs on the internet and trying to write this story.


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