This is one of the responses I got when I asked you guys for writing prompts: In what ways has your life turned out differently than you thought it would when you were growing up? This post is part 4 of a five-part series in which I answer this question.
I was never one of those kids who was just itching to leave the Midwest, but I did always assume that life would end up carrying me away from it. But to date, that hasn’t quite happened.
Though I’ve lived in three different states since leaving my hometown of St. Louis, I’ve always been just four hours away.
Basically, my life has been a parallelogram:
Twice, I was on the brink of leaving.
The first time was toward the end of my college years in Indiana, when I made plans to attend grad school in San Diego. I got accepted to my dream program and spent months fantasizing about my new life on the coast… until I visited the school and realized it wasn’t my dream at all. Weeks later, I begrudgingly accepted an offer in Illinois.
The second time was toward the end of my grad school years, when Doug had applied to schools across the country and accepted an offer in Colorado. We were ready to pack up and head for the mountains! Until the day of my graduation… when he got a very late acceptance to Iowa: an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Perhaps parallel versions of myself are playing out my alternate choices in parallel universes and turning down their pitying noses at the seemingly-permanent Midwestern yokel I have become.
But in this reality, I have chosen to embrace it.
Here are some cool things about my slice of the Midwest: The rent is cheap, the parking easy, and the traffic minimal. I can get from the airport parking lot to my seat on the plane in under ten minutes!
The only thing that truly bothers me about Midwest life, honestly, is the winters.
But I’m learning to remind myself that even winter brings its own set of gifts. As an avid reader/writer/introvert, it’s not the worst thing in the world to have a legitimate, built-in excuse to not leave the house for several months. Plus, the emergence of spring is so powerful that its physical and metaphorical beauty still rocks me to my core, even after all these years.
And whenever anyone says there isn’t anything to do in the Midwest, I just roll my eyes. What’s up with people who say that, anyway? Are they really so externally stimulated all the time that they’ve forgotten the infinite variety of ways the creative, human mind can sustain itself in any environment? I’ve never run out of things to do.
What would I actually be doing differently if I lived elsewhere? Going to Broadway shows and museums all the time? Dining at classy restaurants and paying a hundred dollars for a tiny, expertly-stacked array of mystery vegetables?
Maybe. Maybe I’d be brimming with so much culture and class that it would blow all of our minds.
More likely, I suspect I would be doing basically what I do now: reading, hanging out at Panera, and rubbing my cats’ adorable cheeks while Doug cradles them in his arms like human infants.
Oh, and here’s a secret I’ve learned over the years: there are huge advantages to living only four hours from where you grew up.
I have driven back for countless weddings and bridal/baby showers, and I’ve gone back every weekend Bevin has been in town over the past decade. I never have to choose between spending Thanksgiving or Christmas with my parents: I will be there for both, thank you very much, eating up all the home-cooked food you can throw at my face.
The idea of moving far away used to sound like an exciting, inevitable adventure. Now it just makes my heart feel tight.
Here’s a fun fact: Doug finished school a year ago. We have no good reason to be here or anywhere anymore; we are free birds.
“We should talk about where we want to live,” one of us will occasionally say to the other, taking our turn in our delicate dance of talking only about the act of talking about it.
“Yeah,” the other will agree. “Let’s discuss it next time we go to Red Lobster.”
But then we don’t. I mean, don’t misunderstand me: we go to Red Lobster. We go there like nobody’s business. We just don’t discuss it. I order my catch-of-the-day and Doug orders his Admiral’s Feast and we end up talking about the creative process, or sexism in America, or the inherent sadness of childhood.
And then we stop at Barnes & Noble. And then we go home, where we rub our cats’ adorable little faces until they won’t let us anymore. If it’s warm out, we might go for a walk. If not, I read a book while Doug plays music. And it won’t even occur to either of us until days later that we forgot to start hatching a plan out of this place.
The Midwest is super underrated. And I love winters, so all the more reason for me to be there! I’m stuck on the east coast for grad school, but I think I’ll eventually make it back. Four hours is a perfect distance to be from your parents — not close enough that they could stop by unannounced but close enough to visit when you want to.
Very true about the distance. Also, I am always jealous and in awe of the people who can sincerely say “I love winters!” 🙂
You didn’t mention how friendly and open Midwest people are!
I thought about it…
I felt the say way about Texas. I had always dreamed of living out of state. Maybe California or somewhere in the east coast. However, that didn’t happen and now the thought of it stresses me out. I guess, the reason I wanted to leave Texas was because I thought I wouldn’t be living life. But I am, I travel when I can and keep in contact with close friends and family. I don’t need to leave my state to live life. Thanks for this article.
Exactly. When you travel, wherever you live is just your home base anyway. I tend to think of the whole United States as my home these days- it’s easy enough to travel throughout 🙂
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Yes, I know what you mean!
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I’m a California girl who lived in the midwest several years. And I just moved back to Cali last winter; determined not to have to scrap ice off my windshield again. I hear your inner hearts struggle, but there is nothing like being near family. Hence why I came back to Cali. But hey, when you’re ready to take the steps, the doors will open wide and they’ll be no denying it’s time. Until then, enjoy the cheesy biscuits (love those things) and keep you’re head up!
Haha, thanks! Never having to scrape ice off of your windshield again sounds absolutely blissful. Enjoy home!
I only wish I could share the same opinion as all of you. Growing up in Texas wasn’t so bad. We had a coast, with a nasty beach, and all those “things to do.” But I always knew the island we referred to as Galvatraz in my youth couldn’t keep hold of me. Since graduating High School I haven’t stayed still much. I’ve been and lived numerous places. Now, I don’t really live anywhere. Not that I don’t want to, its just that where I want to be, doesn’t want me. So I’m wandering indefinitely until I can either find a new place I want to be, or be re-accepted where I left my heart.