THAT SAID. I've had something of a revelation tonight. Lately, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about where I came from and how much it fucked me right up and how lucky I am to have escaped that miserable hellhole mostly unscathed. Tonight, however, I saw at least six Facebook statuses from friends I made in Minnesota that have moved away and are coming back for visits soon -- and all of them are followed by exclamation points and much rejoicing.
Here's the thing: Minnesota saved me. I'm not even close to joking. I ran away from Wisconsin as fast and as far as I could for my means when I graduated high school. I met lovely people who proved to me that life is not only filled with death, self loathing, addiction and crippling depression. In fact, it's full of the beautiful manifestations of nature and deep, honest conversation, genuine care, and a desire to share experiences through mutual interests and discuss them later at great length.
I don't understand exactly why the culture here is so different from the one that is -- essentially -- just four hours away on a good day without construction delays, but it is. Vastly, and to a point that it sometimes feels like the border between the two goes far beyond geography.
I'm still not sure quite why that is. We speak the same language and carry many of the same traditions, but the social approaches and experiences available to be had are markedly different. I sometimes think it seems almost ungrateful for me to say it's better, but my experience tells me that it really just is better. I used to refer to myself as a Wisconsinite who expatriated, but now I really think of myself as a Minnesotan, even though I was not raised here and the majority of my life was spent living elsewhere.
Still, even though I haven't left yet, I think I know why people are excited to come back and why they appreciate it as much as they do. I know I'm not going to spend the rest of my life living here, even though I do, genuinely, love it. I can feel the end coming slowly, and within a few years I expect I'll probably be in Colorado or on a coast because my soul wants mountain ranges and ocean tides. When that happens, I know I'll visit, and I'll doubtless have the same enthusiasm as those who are returning now.
Minnesota is marvelous. I don't know that I'll ever be able to adequately sing its praises, but it's kind of a humble, self-aware sort of state so that's totally OK. It's beautiful, it's entirely honest if you don't have a problem with passive-aggressive politeness, and it's rich with diverse cultures, food, music, art and education. Most of what I've learned here never came from an institution, even though I learned a metric shitton at the U of M. I learned survival in Wisconsin, but I learned acceptance, admiration without jealousy, community pride and true resourcefulness -- interconnectivity and the benefits thereof, that is -- here. In this environment, I was able to acknowledge who I was, to love myself without anyone else's approval and find dozens of friends who love me for me, not just what I can provide them.
The thing that struck me tonight was that I don't ever feel anything but relief, peace and excitement when I return to my home in Minneapolis. I honestly didn't believe in the concept of home until, well, probably 10 minutes ago. I've thought of myself as transient, as taking "home" with me in my body and mind, never anchoring it to a place because -- in my experience -- a place is not truly permanent or safe. Now, I realize that's not true anymore.
Never once have I felt manipulated by someone here, or felt used for personal gain. Sure, I have been consulted for advice. I have had friends ask or attempt to bribe me for help, but they've always been upfront about it and I've also had many offer me help unbidden. In fact, I've had friends hunt me down just because I hadn't talked to them in awhile and they were concerned, which was totally new to me. The honesty here is pervasive.
There is truth to be found here, and maybe that's why I was drawn here in the first place. Whatever siren song brought me to these shores, there's something special about this place and I now know that no matter how far I wander, I will come back. Everyone does. We can't help it, and we don't really want to.