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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I moved to Chicago the day after I graduated from college. I couldn't wait to leave Kansas in the dust and get to a place where I really belonged. I spent most of my early 20s trying to forget where I came from. It made sense in my head. In a way I could never exactly name, I didn't feel like I belonged in the place I grew up. I always felt like an outsider. Strange, to spend 21 years in one place and feel your connection tenuous at best.

I'd visit Kansas again on holidays and feel uneasy. The wide open spaces were hard to take in. My depth perception would be wonky for the first day or two of each visit, and I wouldn't be able to look outside at the hills.

Chicago seemed to bring out who I really was, though being a naive country girl suddenly urbanized was an adjustment. I'm sure I made a lot of missteps and tried on a lot of different "me"s before I found the right fit. But it was my city, and I was deeply sunk in a long-term love affair with it. Every experience I had confirmed my love and sense of place. I met glamorous city girls, and dated underground music geeks. One I fell for hard for several years, and when we discussed our future, I only felt a slight twinge that I'd be settling down with another die-hard city boy. Only once or twice did I wish he were the camping type, and after him, I dated boys so urban that if you put a tire iron in their hand and pointed to the flat, they wouldn't know what to do.

It started to seem ridiculous, these skills that I had (I was changing flats at 14!) that I didn't find mirrored in my dates. I stopped revering encyclopedic knowledge of obscure bands above rugged survival skills. And I despaired that I'd ever find a good combination of the two.

Tim brought back my sense of place, only it's no longer Chicago. I can't escape my past. The small town, the rural homestead, lonely flint hills that are the most beautiful lands I've ever seen. I'm fascinated by it all, amazed even now at growing up in an existence so far removed from any kid I know today. I've worked with kids who don't even know where Kansas is on a map, nor have ever seen a real farm. I write so frequently about the past because it intrigues me, and, I think, helps me get to the bottom of who I am today. It may in fact be the most interesting part about me.

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