There is a level of comfort in my present Midwestern existence that is as comfortable as it is distressing. The strong ties that bind small communities, the high barriers to social entry that are difficult to overcome. One becomes accustomed to being alone among none, instead of many, which is that sweet spot where the city finds its strength. The weak ties that bind, free of expectation, free of (for the most part) drama – and zero tolerance for mediocrity. Here, while it is not easy, it’s cushy. Too cushy. I like to figure things out, to poke the box, as it were, and either succeed or fail on my own terms. And, let’s be honest, being a single, liberal, atheist writer in a coupled, Christian, conservative, blue collar town doesn’t lend itself to drama-free entanglements, romantic or otherwise.
But all of that’s beside the point. The Midwest has been good to me in many ways. Growing up infused me with a sense of determination. When you come to the realization that you don’t belong at the tender age of five, that becomes self-evident. Even if you can’t spell evident at the time.
In my various years here, I’ve bought and lost my first home. I’ve brought the best dogs in the world into my life. I’ve met, loved, and lost the love of my life. And then her met again. I played my final musical performance. I played my first musical performance. I landed my first book deal. I’ve made lifelong friends whom I miss terribly, and suffered the consequences of a legion of mistakes and false truths.
Through all of that, there has come a realization. I didn’t come back here to catch my breath, or because it was a convenient escape from the hell that was my Boston 2011 experience. Nor was it because I couldn’t handle anything else. I need this place every so often because it gives the rebel in me something to do. It pushes me in the way I need to be pushed. It refreshes me.
I spent my whole life here knowing I didn’t belong – and hating this place for it. Now I know I don’t belong here, and I’m at peace with that. While I know I don’t belong, I know why I need it. I know why part of me loves it (no matter how hard I may try to bury that part from time to time). It rattles my cage. It ruffles feathers. It brings the rebel back.
It gives me something to think about. To write about. It offers perspective. Like Michael Caine in Inception, it gives me space to think. To create. To build. To act. Work. Live. Love. Rebel. Fight, and ultimately find a quantum of solace (thank you Ian Fleming for that wonderful term).
I’ve reached that middle ground, where I both accept and loathe my situation. Love it and want to leave it. Capitulate and rebel. I know exactly what I want and now’s the time to make it happen.
You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes, you get what you need.