I just texted the first kid I ever babysat, who’s now in her early twenties. She still lives in the swing state that spawned us and I needed to ensure that she’s registered to vote for Obama later this fall. When she and her mom were in New York a couple of years ago, the three of us were the most underdressed bread-breakers at the high-post Tribeca restaurant we found ourselves in.
It was during those prime babysitting years that I jumped through all the hoops it took to bust out of the Midwest – a land I didn’t hate, but didn’t love. I was born restless and most in love with the idea of customizing a path that was as fertile and newsworthy as the courses a lot of my elders had journeyed down.
I had to see, up close, what else was out there to better understand and respect where I came from. My personal and professional dealings with folks from all over have served as reminders that (underneath the narrow-mindedness that’s easily uncoverable in many of their small towns, rural enclaves, and medium-sized metro areas) Midwesterners epitomize two guiding principles – sincerity and simplicity.
My grown-up travels back home and to other parts of the region are as medicinal as my delicious goblets of red wine. When I learn that someone I’ve just met is Midwestern born and bred, there’s more than a sense of familiarity; there’s a sense of relief. I won’t get sucker-punched, I won’t get sucker-punched, I sing to myself (and sometimes out loud). So far, I’ve only been proven wrong once.
Elected politicians are among my least-preferred citizens, but I now get excited about presidential election seasons the way teens in their prime babysitting years get excited about Halloween. My original neck of the woods becomes a little less marginalized and is taken a little more seriously, swaying in the spotlight before getting redeposited backstage for another four years.