Town center of Centerville, Iowa.

It’s a cliché to say life is a journey. That makes it the easiest way to describe our existence in time and places across the firmament.

The journey, or whatever else you want to call it, is also about choices made, or choices you weren't able to make.

Recently I learned a lesson, or perhaps a few lessons—another cliché—from a journey to interview for a position with the University of Nebraska's Rural Futures Institute (RFI). I didn't get the job.

So, the first lesson: I don’t like rejection, but I really am not upset about being denied the choice to pick up and move on to a new challenge. I do regret that I will not have a chance to add my ideas to a relatively new organization that is operating with the full support of the University of Nebraska system, including the Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Medical Center, and the other campuses.

RFI is one of the places to be where rural is concerned. Director Chuck Schroeder and his team are already up and running. They will do great things in the future, offering alternatives for rural Nebraskans who want to make positive changes in their communities and regions. The University of Nebraska is now the leader among Land Grant universities in rural community and economic development.

A job interview gives you a chance to evaluate where you've been, where you are, and where you want to go. I am just past my 10th anniversary at the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University. It has been a great ride with a sincere and dedicated group of people. My health and state budget willing, I am happy to stay here for a few more years. My recent search on the side road of interviewing for a new job has reminded me that I am in a good place, with loads of unfinished work.

website, it is growing.

The lunchtime conversation covered other good things going on in the town, as well as some of the issues. At 17.2%, Appanoose County has one of the highest poverty rates in Iowa, compared with 12.6% statewide. It is a difficult social problem that presents obstacles for families, schools, health care, and in the workplace.

The third lesson: Working in rural areas can be a draining experience because there are so many negatives. They become acutely obvious when you drive through ramshackle places with grinding poverty. At my job interview with the Rural Futures Institute, we discussed the culture of despair that permeates many rural areas across the country, including Illinois and Nebraska.

[imgcontainer left] [img:tanglewood eats treats3.jpg] [source]Photo via the Tanglewood Eats, Treats, and Suites website[/source"/>

The "eats" part of Tanglewood Eats, Treats, and Suites in Centerville, Iowa.