I just returned from a whirlwind weekend in the Midwest, and while I have many (John Mayer-related) stories to tell, I’m most drawn at the moment t0 exploring the distance between these two places I’ve called home.
Transplanted from the edge of Chicago out to Sheridan, Illinois as a temperamental tween, I knew from moment zero that, in the long run, this strange new world of cornfields and Drive Your Tractor to School Day (yes, that was really a thing) was not for me. No matter how many times I heard someone say “Oh, just wait. Pretty soon you won’t be able to stand all the concrete and chaos of the city,” I knew they were wrong. I knew – know – I needed the activity, the bustling, the endless options rather than an endless prairie horizon.
Each visit home, as I drove towards my parents’ house and leave things like streetlights and traffic and sidewalks behind for country roads and acres between houses, miles to the closest store, I feel a bit like a foreigner in this place so many others can effortlessly embrace. I’ve been in New York three months now, and like every movie and song says will happen, I’ve fallen completely in love with it.
Last night, my mom and I stood on the back deck and used Sky Guide to explore the dark, star-spotted sky above their secluded house. I haven’t seen stars in months, and without the slightest delay we both pointed to the big and little dippers, wide and bright above the house. And driving to the airport today, Wildfire on repeat, the end-of-summer corn rushing past me like a hallway, its green walls high on either side of the empty road, I felt for the first time – maybe ever – an appreciation for that part of the country.
And later, after the hour-long train ride from JFK back to Manhattan, after pushing through a grocery store packed shopping cart to shoulder just to get dinner, after only an afternoon of the complete lack of space on this over-populated island, I appreciate it even more.
A friend asked me recently how I was doing in my new surroundings, if NYC is where I always should’ve been. I replied that I’m not sure about always, but that it’s definitely where I should be now. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And even if it’s not mine to claim, just knowing the wide open spaces of my parents’ place exist, knowing that I have a connection to those skies, those fields, I feel like I’ve got a little more space on even the most crowded subway car.