While reading Dana's post about the relief of not having to fit in in foreign cultures, and then her discussion of exaggerating one’s “nativeness,” I started thinking again about something that has been on my mind for a while now. My husband and I have been exploring places to live when he retires, and when we visited one of them last summer, I just panicked when we were about to put an offer on some property there…I mean, a sleepless night and sobbing, weeping. It was awful.
It turns out there were some serious things at home that needed attention, but since then, things have calmed down (knock on wood). I continued the search for places to live through magazines, the Internet, etc. and I have come to this conclusion: I have fallen for my state like someone who is in an arranged marriage might fall in love with their spouse. I didn’t choose this state; I was born here. It was not my mother’s native state, so it’s not like there are generations who have been here
One of my clues was this: I have recently been something of an iTunes addict, and they have lists of songs relating to various themes. One was for my state and the major city in it. I looked at the list, and I thought, “My God, I love all of these songs.” It’s not something I can define or describe, but these songs, which span generations, touch me. I have wondered why I have never made popular culture choices that are “appropriate” to my age, and this is what I learned: it’s not about time for me, but place.
Then something else happened. I was researching another town online that had been recommended in a magazine, and I was reading Chamber of Commerce stuff, I think. It said that union membership in that state was low, and they said it like it was a good thing! What? I now live in a management family (although I belong to a union, and I recognize there are problems) but I just felt like I had experienced an insensitive attack on my religion. Yeah, they sometimes make life inconvenient, but they make it a little more fair. Do people really want to go back to the way it was before unions?
My state is also gorgeous. A lot of people I run into don’t know that because I live in one of the most geographically uninteresting parts of it. Some of the really stunning parts don’t have a lot of people living there permanently because tourism is the primary industry, or because you are more likely to live there if you are very well off. Nevertheless, I like it here, because this part of the state is one of the more integrated ones I’ve ever seen. People cross ethnic and racial and socioeconomic lines more deeply than I have seen in other places. I’ve had the opportunity in my life to hang out with people from a broad array of backgounds, particularly when I moved to my current home. I don’t agree with everybody here about everything, but I never feel like I have to.
I feel like when I move to a new state, I will have to spend a lot of time justifying and defending myself and the things I believe and value. I will have an accent (and I never thought I really had the accent of my home state until I listened to a message I had left on our home answering machine.) People won’t say “pop” or play euchre. (I don’t play euchre, either, but I need to be able to refuse to play it at a social gathering.)
I like to travel when I have the opportunity and hope I can do more of it. I like meeting new people and seeing different ways of doing things. This, though, is my home, and even though I will probably leave it someday, it will be one of the more difficult moments in my lfe.