Coming home

This entry originally appeare on The Post (www.thepostsd.com) on January 18, 2011.

My trip back to the Midwest was anything but dull as it raged from Minneapolis down through Brookings and into Sioux Falls where I spent the days watching Dexter with my mom and the nights having drinks with friends from far and near. After only a few days back on the streets of my childhood, old habits and familiar routines came back to mind. Most of the familiar sights went unchanged, but subtle differences between memory and reality cropped up the more I explored my former stomping grounds. Newly developed neighborhoods and streets appeared in former corn fields and O’Gorman’s new theater dominated the view as I drove over the hill on Kiwanis Avenue.

But more than just physical changes dotted the landscape of my youth. In my mind, Sioux Falls remained perpetually as it did when last I left, but time passed the same as it did in New York. Though moving at a somewhat different pace, Sioux Falls was changing and adapting to economic stresses and the 21st-century dynamic just like NYC. The smoking ban was among the most noticeable differences – especially walking through Jim’s Tap for the first time. Despite the overall triumph that resulted in that outcome, the election of the least-educated member of Congress broke my heart as much as my spirit. Despite my attempts at neutrality, I can’t help but bang my head against a wall when trying to contemplate how such a thing could possibly happen. Regardless of my disappointment, I accepted my position and only spoke of it when in safe company, which wasn’t entirely hard to find.

Despite the changes in the political realm, the people of Sioux Falls remained mostly unchanged. Aside from age’s subtle effects and the fading tans of summer, most of my friends appeared the same as always. For the most part, my conversations with old chums went as they always had. After a quick synopsis of the past year’s events by each party, discussions usually steered to familiar topics from back when. One theme that resonated amongst us all was the rate at which we all seemed to be spreading out from home base. Some friends would go unseen simply because they had no family drawing them back to the familiar haunts. The time I had amongst old friends passed quickly and after a few hours it was farewell until . . . whenever. That uncertainty of a future encounter is definitely the hardest part of saying goodbye to anyone. It’s hard to say who will be able to come back the next Christmas, or if that time will even overlap with others.

In addition to the pleasant encounters I shared with many people, there were a few “less-than-desirable” moments. I forgot what it was like to be a bleeding-heart liberal in a red state, but I was quickly reminded of it when listening to the idle discussions at the Hy-Vee checkout stand. One difficult realization came when I was chatting with some former classmates. As we bantered about New Year’s Eve plans and conversation shifted to what each of us was doing with our lives, a similar theme developed. Every person there was either engaged, married or expecting a child – in any order or combination of the three. I have the feeling my eyes gave me away as I thought in disbelief about how my priorities differed from these old school friends I once knew so well.

But, just as Sioux Falls and its inhabitants have evolved, so have I. These past 16 months in New York have changed and shaped me into a new person with a different perspective than the one I left behind. As the future unfolds and I continue to cement myself in NYC, the person I was will continue to transform and grow, but at my core I will always be a South Dakotan. The strength, resolve and determination instilled in me by the Midwest will continue to propel and motivate me as I conquer New York and make my way here. Though my home may be in a new place, I can’t forget where my journey started and the place that will always be home.

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~ by Geoffrey on 18 January 2011.

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