(Photo by Carney Lentz)
I live in Muncie, Indiana. I don’t have to be here. I choose to be here.
My wife Annie stopped working 10-months ago after the birth of our second child. That’s when it dawned on us: we could live anywhere. I could do my job from Key West, California, or Colorado. We had a brief discussion about where we want to live and the result surprised us both: we wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
On more than one occasion I’ve had someone in Muncie who I was meeting for the first time say, “Dude, why are you here?” I’m not sure how to take this.
Is it a compliment? Are vagabonding, traveling authors / speakers too interesting for Muncie?
Or is it an insult? Who in their right mind, if they could live anywhere, would choose the Midwest or Muncie? There’s a bumper sticker that I’ve seen in town that reads: Is Muncie Necessary?
I’ll admit, from the ages of 12 to 22 all I wanted to do was leave the Midwest, and that’s exactly what I did as soon as I had the chance. From 20 to 30 I traveled around the world a couple of times. From Australian beaches, I’ve watched the sun rise out of the pacific and a few months later watched it set behind Himalayan peaks. I lived in Key West and North Carolina.
But I’m back.
I’m here because it is home.
I’m here because my family and friends are here.
I’m here to watch my children run barefoot through the same yards I ran through when I was their age.
I’m here because the people are friendly.
I’m here because I realized that flat fields of corn are beautiful.
I’m here because I live in a 2,400 square-foot home that costs less than rent for a 240 square-foot apartment in New York City.
I’m here because there is no rush hour.
I’m here because deer walk through my backyard.
I’m here because my daughter can make perfect snow angels in our front yard.
I’m here because reservations aren’t required.
There are places in the world I could live, where I would be surrounded by folks who saw the world more like me — not always the case here in Muncie — but that would be too easy. I like having my views challenged and my mind changed. I like challenging others to see the world in a different way.
I recently caught a lecture at Ball State by Richard Longworth the author of Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalism. He paints a pretty grim future for the Midwest. Agriculture isn’t the future and neither is manufacturing.
What is the future of the Midwest then? He’s not sure. Whatever the future is, I’ll be here, to see it.
A few years ago I wouldn’t have written this. I made up slogans for the Midwest – A Great Place to Leave!
I remember something mom used to say to me when I was faced with yet another long summer afternoon in which all the baseballs, soccerballs, basketballs, swords, lawn darts, and laser guns were strewn about the yard. I would complain to her, “I’m bored!” and she would respond, “Only boring people get bored.”
The day is what you make of it and so is your hometown. I’ve decided to stop complaining about where I live and instead actively try to make it better and more interesting.
All of that starts with seeing home differently. I love Muncie. I love Indiana. I love the Midwest.