Thursday, March 21, 2013

What it Means to be from Nebraska

Often, when I tell people I live in Nebraska they say:
"Oh. I'm sorry." (or something of the like).
"Why did you go to Nebraska when you're from Colorado?"
"Oh, the Huskers, huh?"
And my personal favorite: "You must eat a lot of corn."

These comments made sense to me when I first came to college here at eighteen. I felt separated from the Rocky Mountains, from a place I'd spent most of my life. A place that was familiar to me. I kept looking for the mountains to tell me which way was West (and admittedly,  I still think of which way Colorado is...) The way I spent weekends changed: less outdoor time, more people time. Less hiking, more biking. Less big-city events, more small-group board game marathons. We're a creative bunch.

But throughout the years, more and more, I find myself feeling oddly defensive about Nebraska, like "Don't apologize to me. I like Nebraska!" or "This state is more than cornfields and football." But these indignations often fall on deaf ears, because, to them, I've settled.I've been brainwashed.

But I can truthfully, whole-heartedly say: I really like Nebraska.

What I've noticed is that while I've been here for six years, I don't respond to Nebraska-bashing the way true Nebraskans do. They don't agree with the critics. They don't argue with the critics. They just grin with this knowing smile that says, "Sure. Say what you will. More for the rest of us..." It's like their keeping a little-known, secret family recipe and they don't feel sorry or regretful one little bit.

This place is simple.
Not much hype.
Not too fast.
Not too stressed.
The weather is hot in the summer and cold in the winter
(like many other places in the world that are not Southern California).
The people are kind.
The population is surprisingly diverse.
We resettle homeless refugees. 
This place attracts nomads.
And hippies.
And college kids.
And good, reasonable farmers and family types.And local businesses.
And farmer's markets.
And yogis.
And world travelers who like coming home to a place that harbors a common place sensibility.
And content people who don't need loud noises and bright flashing lights to be entertained. 

I've said many times in conversations about Nebraska that a person can be happy in Nebraska and miserable in Hawaii. It you're waiting for things to make you happy, you won't be happy anywhere. I think Nebraskans may know this better than most. That their joy can be found not only in breathtaking landscapes and big cities, but also in a community of people and experiences that always feels like home.


Paradise said...

Lincoln, especially, is a great place to raise kids. Lots to do for families.
Thanks for your defense, Heather!

Carley Brown said...

This is a study of the happiest and most miserable states in America, I don't remember where Nebraska landed but unfortunately Arkansas, my current state, was the 5th most miserable haha