Since my experience away from the Midwest was such an interesting time for myself, I often think about other people who have left the Midwest and what their experiences are like. I decided to launch a series called "Midwest Expat" where I chat with a Midwesterner who has moved elsewhere to see how their Midwest is showing.
Erika Veurink has been a regular on My Midwest Is Showing from the beginning. She and I met when we were both living in New York, then moved back to the Midwest around the same time. Her essays, "Sticking Together" and "Summer in the Midwest", perfectly represent how perfectly Midwestern Erika is. I was only half surprised, however, to learn that Erika was heading back to NYC. She's been there for a few months now, and I just had to catch up with her since she's now a Midwest Expat. Check out how chic her city life has been and learn about what she's been up to.
My Midwest Is Showing: What is your hometown, and where do you live now? How long have you lived there?
Erika Veurink: My hometown is Des Moines, Iowa. I currently live in Brooklyn, New York. Let’s say I’ve lived here three and a half years, including a seven or so month stint back in Iowa.
MMWIS: Tell me about your job & school. What does it entail?
EV: Contrary to popular belief, I’m still in school. As a student of the University of Northwestern’s Online Business School, I spend on average three or four days a week working on classes. Every morning, I can be found hauling a double stroller up the hills of Park Slope as a nanny. Throw in some writing, the occasional photo thing, freelance stuff and that’s me.
MMWIS: What's your lifestyle like? Describe a typical day.
EV: Routine is really important to me. I start every single day with stretching, making coffee in my French press, listening to the same vinyl, and reading my Bible/writing. From there, I enjoy a lovely walk to work in Prospect Park. My day usually varies from here. Some afternoons I head into the city for lunch with a friend in Soho or to a meeting in TriBeCa. Others are spent wrapped in a blanket trying to decipher International Business in my bed. I love to end my days by trying a new recipe at home, calling my mom, finishing a book, and then seeing a film or watching on at home. I’m grateful for the flexibility that finishing my degree online has offered me. Oh and I end every night by reading. I turn my phone off usually an hour or so before bed and really dive into my latest reads. Usually this is fiction, but in a moment of honesty, I can’t sleep without reading a cookbook. Try it! It’s the most relaxing part of my day.
MMWIS: Favorite thing about where you live now?
EV: I’m a total Brooklyn convert. My first years in New York were spent in Chelsea, which, while central, lacks personality. Park Slope is a slew of local businesses, little families, and irrationally angry Italian men. I love that. Prospect Park is a few blocks away; ideal for afternoon walks or spreading a blanket and reading. I have a local liquor shop, a local bodega, and a local crazy person. The separation from the buzz of the city makes living here so much sweeter. Plus, I get a little giddy every time I take the F into the city still.
MMWIS: What do you miss most about the Midwest?
EV: What I miss the most is the surplus of Midwestern living-ample counter space (I measured, I have exactly 20 inches), lingering family dinners, and slow drives to the country. The speed of life is slower, softer, making for some really special moments. Also, I miss grocery shopping, but honestly if we’ve had one conversation I’ve brought it up so I’ll spare you the drama.
MMWIS: What don't you miss?
EV: While some people take this surplus and springboard off of it, I found I need the energy of a city to drive me, creatively and socially. I would get so stir crazy living in Iowa, taking hour long walks through the suburbs just to entertain myself. I also don’t really miss the lack of enthusiasm for clogs that I have in surplus in Park Slope.
MMWIS: What's something you know now that you didn't know living in the Midwest?
EV: I know how to cry in public. I know how to kick a cab and yell at the driver just loud enough to be taken seriously by other New Yorkers. I know never to trust the MTA. I know how to communicate “whiskey on the rocks” using only hand signals at a crowded bar. I know not to try to sing Nicki Minaj karaoke. I know there’s no place like this city.
MMWIS: How does your Midwest show in your new location?
EV: Sometimes I think I’ve lost most of my Midwestern charm. And then I ask for extra ketchup or hold the door for fifteen people exiting the subway. The way I see it, I’m warmer than the average New Yorker, but a tad less exuberant than the average Midwesterner. I know Sammy can relate, but Midwesterners find each other in the city. We hug awkwardly, as we do, and then proceed to discuss cheese or corn. How bizarre.
MMWIS: You lived in New York, moved back to Iowa, and now live in New York again. What was that experience like? Has that changed your view of either place?
EV: When I moved to New York, eighteen and obsessed with this idea of what it meant to be in fashion, living here was a given. The second I lost that part of my identity, I had a moment of “why is this worth it?” It took time and rest to discover why it was and to choose New York for myself. If anything, my time in Iowa gave me a deeper appreciate and respect for the lifestyles we choose. You can build a beautiful, meaningful life anywhere.
MMWIS: Do you think you will ever live in the Midwest again?
EV: Some of the best advice I’ve ever been given is while places stay the same, people don’t. Keeping this in mind, I can happily say I have no idea. I would love to live in the Midwest, if that’s what it meant to love my people best. For now, it’s the perfect place to visit. In the words of Humphrey Bogart, “We’ll always have the Midwest.”