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Will this small town boy become a big city college man?

The city is beautiful, but there'll be no getting out of it, no turning back, no going home. Not anytime soon, anyway.

The vortex will pull me in, and I'll either like it or I won't, but I'll be in the fray to stay. This I must consider.

This became very clear to me walking down 4th Street, horns blaring and kids chatting on their cell phones and shuttle busses making their rounds. In this invigorating mass of humanity and his creations, I saw both the snares and the dangerous irresistible pull of the city life, a life I took a step toward pursuing with my tour of the University of Minnesota last week.

The city changes people forever, and, should I choose it, it will change me. I don't really see any way around that. There's no reason to remain constantly friendly when you see a million people every day, and no purpose in getting to know those who you will probably never see again. It's just not practical.

The city-dweller must develop a protective shell, must be constantly on guard, constantly aware and a bit cynical. There's just a lot going on, and people who are always willing to take advantage of you.

Tripping over fire- hydrants and getting lost in Dinky Town may be acceptable behavior for occasional tourists, but I'll be a hazard with a target on my back if I adopt the city life and keep the passive small-town mentality.

Yet, opportunity calls from every corner, and potential life experience -- which translates into writing fodder -- from every mischievous face that passes me by. The city seems like the type of place where life lands on your lap without too much conscious effort or premeditation.

You don't have to search out parties or ride your bike down steep rocky hills to find adventure. It will have no problem finding you, and when it does, you'd best be ready.

After all, too much life lived at once can be unhealthy, and what good is opportunity when it overwhelms you instead of helping you get your foot in the door?

In the city, there'll be no more satisfaction in knowing half the ladies in my grandma's church read my column, no more cockily walking down Washington Avenue, all decked out in my cords and shades like I'm some kind of writer.

No one will care what I wrote in high school, no matter what it was. In fact, not many will care what I'm presently writing either.

Walking into the U of M Journalism Department will be like stumbling into some wild hall of mirrors where every reflection is a replication of me, only bigger.

Maybe I'll be better off in Duluth or even St. Cloud. At least in those places, I'd just be a fish in a bigger pond, not in the Pacific Ocean.

Who knows?

As I stood on Washington Bridge during my tour, while the guide rambled cheerfully on and the road crew did its noisy work, I gazed down the Mississippi River and imagined I saw a fork just beyond the last visible bend: the divergence of two futures.

Nathan Kitzmann is a senior at Detroit Lakes High School.