I know I left quickly, without many second thoughts, but like any prodigal daughter I now come back apologetic, and with more wisdom than when I set off. Some of that wisdom I’d like to share.
Because I, too, had my periods of very little respect. To answer what the region is known for I have responded that we have nothing but corn. To questions of what there is to do I have responded sarcastically with ideas of cow-tipping, though I haven’t ever actually seen anything of the sort.
Sometimes the good things are just too close to us to see. Sometimes it takes leaving to appreciate what you have.
And that’s just the problem, Midwest. You are vastly under-appreciated. You’re not the rich coasts: neither the old-money east nor the new-money west coast. You’re not the hunky cowboy west nor the exotic southwest. You’re not the salt-of-the-earth south or the delicious southern food trail that comes with it. No, it’s true. But you are the heartland of America, working silently while the others take the fame. You’re the tamest demographic, the silent testing pool for new products, new ideas, the most traditional and yet unabashedly open. You’re the best friend, the sidekick, destined to be overlooked for your larger and louder half.
The lucky ones, however, have learned that that best friend is often cooler, spunkier and more intelligent than the loud protagonist.
They’re wrong about you, Midwest. All those people who say things just don’t know you like I do. I left, but not with the typical escapist desire of youth. I left for other love, but I love coming back. Your grit and character are better seen once lived elsewhere. Your charisma and compassion, too.
I may not have fully appreciated you in the past, but now I want to say thank you.
Thank you to the neighbor who stopped, waved and said “good evening” followed with a, “how are you doing?” The once normal gesture threw me off after so many months of cold Milanese behavior.
Thank you for the pride that waves from every suburban household, American flags just barely outnumbering the football team flags.
Thank you for the sense of civic duty that permeates your actions, the fundraisers and churches, tiptop yards and clean streets.
Thank you for the city flavor with the country prices. Thank you for my $2 beer!
Thank you, Midwest, for always knowing who you are. For quietly producing some of this nations most important, successful people – presidents and inventors, actors and authors, entrepreneurs and politicians – without ever needing to prove anything. Thank you for being content with living quietly, simply, with a lot of laughter and a lot of love.
You taught me to reach far, but to stay homegrown; to appreciate the little things but to always work hard. You don’t need to be rich or rowdy, a cowboy or a coastline, you’re perfect just the way you are. Don’t ever change, Midwest.