Every time I travel back to my parents’, someone inevitably asks me “Why?” when I say I live in Arkansas. It’s never a curious question but more of a judgement, typically followed by a tisk and a shake of the head. Obviously they don’t say that to people born and raised in Arkansas but because I was born and raised in New England, it opens the flood gates for this type of exchange. Even sometimes there are stares of complete shock and faces void of any comprehension. It happened this time in Chicago when another passenger asked me where I was coming from. And for whatever reason, I’m also slightly ashamed because I know exactly what they’re thinking. And also really disturbed.
It’s not because I don’t love Arkansas. I do tremendously. Arkansas has been a land of opportunity for me. I would not have been as successful had I chosen another place to live, considering all the variables that go into success and looking at peers who left Arkansas. I’m working hard towards what I want in life and can see progress made. It’s a wonderful feeling. And this shame is something I need to stop having. It’s not my fault that they can’t be more open to other ideas of how to live.
Yet it’s hard to talk up a place when you know the other person will find what you have to say as trivial. They don’t care about that we have a low unemployment rate, that we have made leaps and bounds in our schools, or that it’s gorgeous and full of outdoor fun. And I feel like an idiot for saying things like “Well, the pond is smaller so you can be a bigger fish!” It’s hard to equate my love for Arkansas in just words. This, really, is from where my shame stems.
But the words I can say is that it is Home. Southerners understand this better than any other group of people. When Faulkner told his Hollywood producers he was going home to write, they didn’t understand he meant Oxford and were shocked to find him not in his apartment.
So what brings these thoughts on? A poignant and short post by Kathleen about OKC. Kathleen, who’s blog I just added to my reader, writes something that hits really close to home today:
And instead of looking at my state through a lens of lack I’m seeing it as this place rich with prosperity and abundance – a place to convene, converse, and create.
Living in Arkansas is sometimes a struggle, don’t get me wrong. When things don’t go my way or I don’t understand the methods or reasoning behind things I don’t yet understand, I can get frustrated. I think “Only if we lived in x, then…”. But that happens no matter where you live.
I know I’ve written about this before but it’s something I struggle with as a reformed quick-talking, r-dropping Yankee and will like revisit time and time again. It deeply bothers me that parts of the country really look down on others as unrefined and unevolved and that they should be completely excluded and ignored, politically, socially, and artistically. And if you’ve ever though OKC was just all oil barons and cattlemen, I have one thing to say. Wayne Coyne.
So I want to know, why do you love where you live?