Recently I’ve been making lots of trips back to the Midwest (aka Mid-best) and this gets some eyebrows from my friends. “Really?” they’ll say, “you’re excited to go back to Cincinnati?”
This sort of comment rubs me the wrong way for two reasons. One, I am only allowed to give Cincinnati a hard time because I’ve been going there at regular intervals since I was six months old and I lived in the city for five years. I earned it. The rest of you are not allowed to diss Cincinnati.
The second is because I think people don’t give places like Cincinnati and any other Midwest city any credit. I knew this guy in college from Indianapolis and he had no qualms about expressing how much he hated it. Because I used to treat his word as gold, I believed this until I myself went to Indianapolis a couple of times. This meant doing more than going to the airport. It meant actually getting out and seeing the city.
Turns out Indianapolis has cool outdoor art, restaurants that serve good food, bike paths, canal streets and a brewery or two. I was pleasantly surprised.
Indianapolis is no New York City, not even close, but I don’t know why this guy was complaining so much about it. Did he see an ugly side to it? Every city has an ugly side. In fact, the cool hip area in Cincinnati used to the be the “ugly” area. I’m wondering if he said this because he didn’t take the time to explore where he was. When I was briefly in Indy I took the time to go places. I did the same whenever I went to other Midwest cities like St. Louis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Madison and I had a wonderful time in each place. Granted, I had great company, but we went out and did things, exploring what was exclusive to these towns. I went to Michigan on vacation last spring. I’d only ever heard negative things about that place and lo and behold I had a wonderful time and saw one of the most beautiful sunsets ever…and I live in a state famous for beautiful sunsets.
“Life is what you make of it” is a cliche for a reason: it’s up to you to make your experience where ever you are worthwhile. If you don’t, it’s not the city’s fault. It’s yours. Don’t blame it, blame yourself.
For a while I had the itch to leave Colorado. I know, right? I’m so proud to be from this state and I’m in love with it, but I went through a period where I was jaded and applied to MFA programs that weren’t in Colorado with the sole purpose of getting away. In hindsight nothing was wrong with Denver. How could there be something wrong? I live in one of the happiest, least obese states in the country that has beautiful scenery and over 200 breweries . Something was wrong with me. I was restless and fed up with my job situation and I took it out on Denver (I’m sorry, Denver. I’ll never think about leaving you again). Instead of directing my frustration outward, I should have looked inward to solve the problem.
Moving to Bloomington or Chicago or Portland would not have solved my problems. They would have followed me to all corners of the US or even the world. The dark cloud would be above me no matter what and only I could banish it. Storms travel, after all.
Lo and behold I did put my life back together and I started to go out more and spend more time with people who, like me, enjoy exploration and adventure. In fact, I don’t think I just enjoy it—I need it. If I don’t have the appropriate balance of that in my life it makes me crabby.
That being said, I know I’d go nuts living in a small town. I’d drive past those weary Kansas towns on my way to Ohio and wonder why anyone would ever live there. America is built on the small town, and big city life isn’t for everyone, but it’s still something I can’t ever relate to. Even so, I see my small town friends exploring the things around them, having gatherings, and doing whatever they can to be happy. They’re making the most of what us city snobs would call a bad situation, so props to them.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a change of scenery or getting away from difficult stages in life. That I can totally understand. However, if you find yourself complaining about where you live, perhaps you should find out if it’s really the city that’s the root of your unhappiness.