When Chris and I found out we were pregnant with our first son Charles, we decided the responsible thing to do was move. Afterall, I could not fathom pushing a stroller on the subway and our Williamsburg, Brooklyn apartment was not rent controlled so affording to live in our hip neighborhood was a fleeting reality. I clearly remember staring at the cemetery off the BQE as we drove away in our Uhaul with my two Chihuahuas on my lap and tears streaming down my face. I left my friends, my job, my dreams, my community and as far as I knew my 22-year-old identity behind me and I was en route to the ONE place I said I would NEVER live- Minnesota.
We landed in Coon Rapids at my sister-in-law’s house because we had not yet figured out where we were going to live and she graciously insisted we would stay with her- a MN virtue I would come to recognize in others as well. I felt like Dorthy as I looked down at my two small dogs “Well Peanut and Brutus, we’re not in Brooklyn anymore.” My understanding of what MN consisted of was loosely based off of a Coen Brothers film and the song “Proud to be an American.” I was overwhelmed by the pick up trucks, Calvin and Hobbe’s bumper stickers, 1980’s ramblers, “family dining restaurants”, and mini malls that seemed to pass us on every corner. I refused to see anything positive about our new “home”.
With all changes in life, we have two choices- we can kick, scream, fight and feel bad for ourselves until our faces turn blue with the hope that playing the victim will bring us some sort of self indulgent justice; Or, we can listen to what God is trying to tell us and open our minds and hearts to how he is working in our lives in ways we could have never orchestrated on our own. I was in the former state.
Year after year I planned on how long I would tolerate living in MN and when we would make our move out to CA like any normal NYC transplant- In my mind, MN was a brief stop on my ultimate trek West. Meanwhile I failed to realize that I was planting my roots deep as MN was enriching my life with all of it’s gifts and supporting me in ways no other place could have. Cultural diversity, a vibrant music and theater scene, a booming restaurant scene, state of the art hospitals and progressive maternity care, highest rated school systems, environmentally sound EVERYTHING from locally sourced farmer’s markets and park systems to transportation and recycling programs, Northern excursions to Lake Superior and some of the most beautiful scenery around. In fact what I came to realize was that if it weren’t for the winter, MN might be the most coveted place to live in the US.
What has been most life changing is the strong sense of community in MN. When I first moved here I felt like an outsider as most of the people I met were from here and in some cases seemingly clicque-ish. What I have learned is that most people don’t leave MN or if they do, they come back to “settle down” or give back to the community that they are so closely connected to in some way. Our friends here (including co-workers, customers, and neighborhood acquaintances) have become our family.
When I learned that I was pregnant with twins, my boss sat me down.
“Now I realize that because you are having twins that you are most likely considering moving to North Carolina to be closer to your Mom. I don’t blame you. BUT I AM going to try my hardest to convince you to stay.”
The truth was that I had already considered that scenario a million times over and although I miss my parents and family on the East Coast on a daily basis, leaving MN would mean leaving my other family. The family of friends and community here in MN that has found us over the past 8 years. The family that has nurtured and allowed me to flourish through some of the hardest transitions of my life. The family that escorted me into becoming an adult who values things now that my 22-year-old self didn’t even know existed.
Yesterday I was watching CNN as it covered the death of Prince. Prince was born in, raised, and never left Minnesota. He possessed that insistent graciousness to all who knew him, including his community here in Minneapolis. In the 1999 interview with Larry King, Larry questioned Prince in his decision to stay in Minnesota to do his work and create his music (instead of putting down roots in LA or NYC). Prince simply replied
“oh yeah, Minneapolis has always been the bomb.”
It is no surprise that people flooded the streets last night in front of First Ave for an all night sing along/dance party in his honor. Minnesotans are proud to stick together. They support their communities in ways that most major US cities do not.
As I pack up our house to move (yes we are moving with newborn twins and yes we are insane) to our forth location in MN since we arrived 8 years ago I feel very excited and blessed that our network in the Twin Cities area will continue to grow. I expect we’ll feast with our new neighbors on some tater tot hot dish and Surly Beer while playing “corn hole” by the lake- we have over 10,000 to choose from don’t ch’ya know.