I have been in Boston for a few weeks now! While I have been taking time to adjust to my new home, I have also had the opportunity to reflect on my experiences prior to my arrival on the East coast. For the most part, I was born and raised in the state of Minnesota. I completed my undergraduate degree there. I had my first full time job after college in Minnesota, and now I have moved away from it. While I have traveled plenty and seen much of the world, settling in a new city is an entirely different ball game. The following paragraphs entail just a few thoughts regarding my home state. I am sure that I could say much more, but these are the first points that come to mind.
I think that Minnesota is a great place for children to grow if they have the right resources. In my case, I did, and I was able to live in a relatively safe environment. The state is home to some of the best education, and educational standards as a result, in the country, but also has some of the greatest disparities between communities regarding these standards. My high school was one of the best in Minnesota and living in Rochester, with access to the Mayo Clinic and other amazing organizations, provided a lot of opportunities. Of course, not every day encompassed sunshine and rainbows, and I think we would see some interesting results regarding mental health and the pressures that children feel to pursue certain careers (Rochester is a very STEM based town, and my high school definitely channeled this energy). Over all, raising a family there is a pretty safe bet.
I have alluded to this previously, but I was dead set on attending a university outside of Minnesota. I did apply to a couple of schools within Minnesota (obviously including the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities) just for the sake of doing so. I applied to ten places in total, and I was fortunate enough to be accepted to most of them, but for some reason, I had so much trouble deciding on the best path for myself. I felt a sort of comfort as I was walking around the UMN campus; the people and the energy of the area felt familiar to me. The university felt like home. Looking back, I am guessing that this is partly why I had so much trouble committing anywhere else. If we fast forward to late August of 2016, we will see a seventeen year old Natasha moving into her freshman residence hall on the west bank of the UMN campus.
Honestly, I loved my time at the U of M. I thrived (mostly). I accomplished so much more than I imagined that I would and this is because I made the decision to make the most of my college experience. I think that I grew even more grateful for this pocket of the world. Looking at the Minneapolis skyline while walking across the Washington Avenue or Stone Arch bridges still takes my breath away (even after looking at it multiple times every single day for the past few years) and I enjoyed exploring the nooks of St. Paul when I had the chance.
I have mentioned this in previous posts, but love and accountability coexist. I think that Minnesotans have a lot of history and trauma to address in relation to the last couple of years as well as in a general sense of history. I also think that an ease exists in ignoring all of this under the guise of Midwest niceties. Saying “ope, sorry” every five seconds or even having the highest voter turnout rate in the country does not wash away the injustices that marginalized populations face. Black people are still being murdered, Indigenous women are still missing, and pipelines are still being built. I urge my Minnesotan readers to step outside of their comfort zones and ask themselves how they can redistribute their time, energy, and/or wealth.
I also urge my non-Minnesotan readers to consciously negate the assumption that Minnesota is a monolith. Yes, Minnesota is snowy and cold, but the state can also be very hot in the summers. Minnesota does not have earthquakes or hurricanes. It is a home for many different refugee and immigrant communities and offers some of the best healthcare (again, not to everyone). It has produced amazing artists, and the art and music scenes are only growing. It is a land of second chances and wilderness and rivers hot dish and flannel. The state has some of the best women’s sports teams and athletes in the country.
As excited as I was to leave and as much as I believe that my purpose transcends Minnesota’s state lines, I do miss it. I do love it. It has its faults and its charms, and I definitely think that the state, and the people within it, could use a lot of growth. Minnesota will always provide a bit of comfort for me and while I do not envision myself living there permanently, I will always be more than happy to visit.
Sending lots of love to my home state.