My Midwest is Showing

Since moving back to Wisconsin, I often get asked how I’m adjusting to being back in the Midwest. I always answer, “Good!” and then go into some story about my job, or my house, or my website. And the truth is that I am good, but my adjustment has been a lot more complicated than that. 

 Central Park with my parents, 1999

Central Park with my parents, 1999

I first went to New York when I was nine years old. It was magical. Truly. I loved every bit of it – my family did too. We went back two years later, shortly after 9/11. I believe it was this trip when I cut a tiny piece of my heart out, and left it in the city to live forever. That’s how much I loved New York – I wanted part of me to always be there. I went back to New York for a quick trip when I was 15, and then again when I was 20 or 21 for fashion events. The goal was always to live in New York. I was meant to be there. The people, the places, the vibes, the energy – everything resonated with me and made me feel at home in a way I never did in Wisconsin. I never felt like my interests, style, and energy meshed with the Midwest. As I got older, moving to New York didn’t seem realistic, and even though it was still my dream, I started to accept that it might not be in the cards.

 Packing, 2013

Packing, 2013

Fast forward to October 2012. I was 22, in my senior year of college, and recently engaged. I got a call from my boss at my internship and was offered a job in New York City. I remember crouching on the floor in my tiny apartment in Madison knowing this was it. This was my chance to go where I belonged. To be reunited with that piece of my heart I had left there. Being faced with realizing my dream was scarier than I thought it would be. I actually thought about not moving for a second until my mom said, “You have to do it. This is everything you’ve worked so hard for.” And I did work hard, but really, my parents were the ones who broke their backs to make sure all my dreams would come true. To be offered a dream come true and not accept would be a disservice to all of us. I started making plans immediately, and moved to the city in June of 2013. 

 Test shot by Jing Chen, 2014

Test shot by Jing Chen, 2014

New York was amazing, and to be honest, I would have to write a novel to even graze the surface of everything that happened there. But something interesting happened there. After a lifetime of thinking I certainly did not belong in Wisconsin, I realized that I actually am way more of a Midwesterner than I had originally thought. Whether I was walking to the subway with tinfoil covered baked goods, asking for brats at the grocery store, or not batting an eye when a little snow fell, I always found myself thinking, "My Midwest is showing..." 

 Trying to be a New Yorker, 2016

Trying to be a New Yorker, 2016

People on the East Coast are really cool – they work hard, are super smart, and seriously have amazing style. I love them. I loved the melting pot of the city – learning about and being exposed to different cultures on a daily basis was something I will always be eternally thankful for. But sometimes, actually almost daily, my Midwestern culture didn’t fit in with NYC culture. I don’t really want to get into some of the negative things that happened to me, because my time in New York was anything but a negative experience, but I do know that after a particularly hard and painful day at work, I was heading home for the weekend. It was 5am on a Friday, and I ordered an Uber to take me to the airport. I was in a terrible mood, exhausted beyond belief (70 hour work weeks were the norm), and not in the mood for a conversation. Howard, my driver, was in a different mood entirely. He didn’t stop talking from the second we both sat down. He told me about his recent visit home to Jamaica, which sounded heavenly, to be honest. Then he looked at me, and said something I’ll never forget: “Your soul needs to be replenished. You need to go home. You can’t let New York take your soul. That is the key to living here. People change when they move here. New York can give you a lot of nice things, but more than anything, it wants your soul in return. You can’t let New York have it.” I stared at him in disbelief, then said, “I think you’re right, Howard.” And I knew that was the exact sign I needed. I did need to go home. And I started my exit plan then, which progressed rather seamlessly and made me think I was just part of a bigger plan already in place. Four months later, I moved back to Wisconsin. 

 Screen shot of the actual quote from Howard, 2016

Screen shot of the actual quote from Howard, 2016

I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be right now and couldn’t be more thrilled to be close to my family. I haven’t quite figured out what my purpose here is yet – everyday I kind of float about trying to figure out which path I should take. I hate this feeling, because I’ve always been very driven with a clear goal in mind. Sometimes I still feel like I don’t quite fit in here, but I have a feeling that’s just part of being human. I’m learning to go with the flow while this plan unfolds, and have loved meeting so many cool and amazing people through this website. My goal is to shed a light on the smart and talented people of the Midwest and to create a community of people who can support one another.

 Will always love New York and the part of my heart that lives there, 2015

Will always love New York and the part of my heart that lives there, 2015

I couldn’t be prouder to be a Midwesterner and to live right here in Wisconsin.