Location and Geography: Where I Call Home and Where I Want to Be

I think I have become a geographically stuck up.

Wait, what? What does that even mean, Britta?

Okay, okay, let me explain:

A few weeks ago in my Minnesota History class, my professor was talking about how prevalent a dichotomy between provincialism and cosmopolitanism has become in Minnesota in the last half century or so. While, in many ways, Minnesota as a whole has been struggling to maintain its provincial roots, we have also been trying our darnedest to avoid becoming what we wholeheartedly fear other people perceive our state as already: fly over land

Fly over land. a.k.a. a space between two interesting and cosmopolitan regions, the space people fly over to get from cosmopolitan region 1 to cosmopolitan region 2. In our case, these two regions are the East Coast and the West Coast. In our case, fly over land is perceived to be that flat expanse of land smack dab in the middle of the United States known as the Midwest. Minnesota happens to be one of the Northern most states in this region, bordered by four equally as Midwesterny states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. In many ways, Minnesotans want to avoid being simply another Midwestern state. We want to stand out. We want to be cultured and cosmopolitan and we want people to recognize us as such. Maintaining our provincialism is important, yes, but we cannot sacrifice all the cosmopolitan entities we have developed–The Guthrie, The Walker, Target Field, etc.–to do so. We cannot risk becoming this perception of fly over land we fear most.

That Midwest, though

You may be reading this and thinking, “well, that sounds like a load of hooey!” You may not buy into this dichotomy at all. You may be reading this and asking yourself, “What’s the point of being so self-conscious about ones location anyways?” You can be skeptical of all this; in fact, I invite you to be. Regardless of both of our opinion regarding this issue, proving whether or not this dichotomy between the provincial and the cosmopolitan is a reality is not my point. Rather, this was all a bunch of background information so I could get to my actual point: that day in class, when my professor was talking about this, I kept thinking, oh my god, this why I need to get out of this place. This. Fly over land. 

I’ll admit it–something about the Midwest just seems so goddamn depressing right now.

But why? Why is this the way I see things right now? Really…how the hell did this happen to me?

I have lived in Minnesota all my life, minus three summers where I lived with my grandparents in Iowa to work at the local museum in their town and eight weeks last summer when I was in Washington D.C. for an internship. Iowa is directly south of Minnesota; it’s still in the Midwest. Minnesotans joke all the time that Iowa is a crappier version of Minnesota. Why would anyone want to move there when you could live in Minnesota? I, for one, love Iowa…I spent much of my childhood visiting there and it has a special place in my heart. Despite that, it’s still the Midwest and not that different from Minnesota in many respects. Likewise, I loved Washington D.C. and even began to think of it as a  home; however, just when I actually got comfortable there, it was time to leave.

I have lived in the Midwest for all but 8 weeks of my life; I barely know anywhere else. And yet, as I begin to look ahead to life after college, all I want to do is run far away from this region of the country–this region that screams safety to me in so many ways.

I remember the moment I realized I wanted out. This was a good 9 months before I even left for D.C., mind you. Last Christmas, my family traveled to Sullivan, Illinois to visit some relatives. Sullivan is pretty much smack dab in the middle of Illinois, about a half an hour south of the city of Decatur. I had never been to Decatur before; my uncle had recently relocated there from Atlanta to move in with his then-girlfriend, now fiance. My family has some history in Decatur, since my grandparents lived in Decatur throughout most of the 1980’s. Right after my mom graduated from high school in the quiet town of Osage, Iowa, my grandparents and their three children who were still at home, relocated to Mount Zion, Illinois–a suburb right outside of Decatur–so my grandpa could work as a corporate pilot for a company there. I never had a reason to go there until last year since my grandparents had moved back to Osage by the time I was born in the early 90’s; my aunt and two uncles all moved away from the area shortly after graduating from high school.

Decatur is an extremely industrial town. There is a portion of the highway in the city limits that straddles factory buildings billowing out smoke and steam on both sides of it. I recall that that stretch of road was not only quite ugly, but it also smelled terrible because of the fumes.

As my family was driving through Decatur to get to Sullivan, I recall thinking, god, it would be so depressing to live here. This industrial city right smack dab in the middle of the Midwest. I would hate it.

So was the beginning of my desire to get. out. 

Once I got back from D.C., my geographical aloofness became even worse. The idea of staying in Minnesota after I graduate from college sounds absolutely terrible to me. I love Morris, my little town on the prairie, but I see absolutely no future for me there once I graduate. My hometown? Hell no. The idea of living out my twenties in the middle of suburbia is not appealing to me in the least bit. My hometown is the definition of suburbia. Everything about it screams suburbia. No sirree, not for me. I like coming home for short periods of time, but I honestly don’t feel like there’s anything here for me. I would not feel fulfilled living here long term. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable living in the Twin Cities long term. In a way that I can’t even explain, I’ve never felt fully comfortable in the Twin Cities. Minneapolis and St. Paul are fun to visit on occasion, but I would never want to live in either one of them. I used to think that I hated cities; I was really nervous to go out in live in D.C. for the summer partly because I was under the assumption that I don’t like cities. After returning from D.C. and absolutely loving it there, I found myself starting to wonder if its not cities I dislike–maybe I’m just not fond of the Twin Cities. I would just not feel comfortable in them. Granted, I do prefer rural areas in general, but still. There’s something about the Twin Cities that just doesn’t feel like home to me.

I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I’m hating on my home state here. It’s not that I dislike Minnesota; as a matter of fact, there are few places I feel more comfortable than out on the Minnesota prairie. One of the reasons I chose to go to college in Morris is because I find the prairie to be such a profoundly beautiful place. I feel so at peace there. I love rural areas, particularly the rural Midwest dotted with farm land. I grew up vising my grandparents in rural Northern Iowa and absolutely adored it…I still do. I loved visiting grandma and grandpa for two reasons–because I got to spend time with them and because I got to spend time in Osage.

No, I don’t hate the Midwest. I love the Midwest in many ways. More so, I feel like I’m at a point where I just need to go somewhere I else. I’m thirsting for an adventure outside of Minnesota; outside of the Midwest for that matter. That’s not to say that moving elsewhere will make life easier; in fact, knowing that I suffer from anxiety, moving away for good and not just eight weeks will probably throw me into a big huge pit of anxiety for a little while. However, I strongly believe this is something I need to do right now.

I don’t know what the future holds for me. I’m not necessarily saying that I want to say goodbye to the place I call home forever. I just want an adventure right now. I want to go back to D.C. I love it so much there and I know I could call it home.

Maybe I’m not geographically stuck up, after all. Maybe I’m just so ready for a new adventure that I’m losing sight of how important the state I’ve called home my whole life actually is to me. Minnesota is a great state in many ways. It’s just not where I believe I’ll be most fulfilled at this particular time in my life.

I am ready for a new adventure.

I do want to move away from Midwest after graduation.

This is something I strongly believe I need to do for myself. I will still hold my home state close to my heart. But elsewhere is calling. I can feel it.

This kind of sums up my feelings about life right now. It’s terrifying, yes, but also so exciting.

2 Replies to “Location and Geography: Where I Call Home and Where I Want to Be”

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