"Sticking Together" by Erika Veurink

Erika Veurink and I both grew up in the Midwest but had to move all the way to New York City in order for the universe to bring us together. Thank goodness it did. Now that we're both back in the middle of the country, right where we belong, Erika is sharing her thoughts on being Midwestern, and what that means to her.

I ran into Karlie Kloss at Egg Shop in SoHo on the day before my birthday last year.

Ok, so I didn’t run into her, but I spotted her from the across the restaurant, over my avocado toast. Fueled by lots of coffee and encouragement from the friend I was with, I approached her gingerly. I said something like, “Hi. I worked with the same modeling agency out of St. Louis that you started with,” but I’m pretty certain it sounded more like, “I’ve idolized you since your Marc Jacobs ad circa 2009.” She smiled the way supermodels who are used to neurotic fans only can, and we continued to talk. She asked if I was modeling in the city, if I had plans to return to the Midwest and finally, as the conversation came to an end, if I would please leave her alone so she could enjoy her g-dang eggs benedict in peace. The last part was me picking up on social cues, because what she actually said has stuck with me since.

“Us Midwest girls have to stick together.”

That’s it, Karlie Kloss. The Midwest is all about sticking together. In New York, I was shocked at how many Midwestern accents found their way into my life. The second I heard someone asking for a sack instead of a bag or a pop instead of a soda or waiting in line instead of on it, I rushed to their side and insisted on friendship. Meeting Sammy was no different. She greeted me with a giant hug and a genuine smile on our first encounter. She was thoughtful, kind, and had the most glorious Midwestern accent. After a few conversations, we discovered our shared roots and immediately began to “stick together.”

There’s a sense of shared heritage in coming from the same place as another person. You were raised on the same food (corn, cheese, potatoes, a combination of the three), the same entertainment (four wheelers and lake weekends), and the same values (church every Sunday and then football.) The things that make the Midwest unique make the Midwest special. From the obvious, like long o’s and a common affinity for fried foods to the less obvious, like the unspoken tradition of dinners starting as early as 5 p.m. and the capability to keep a family secret for a lifetime; we find ourselves in each other.

Celebrating the quirks that add up to being Midwestern is essential to celebrating the beautiful lives we’ve come from and the ones we’ve chosen to create in this region. Only in recently returning to where we’re from, have Sammy and I been able to celebrate with fresh, untainted perspectives.

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike,” said Maya Angelou in her brilliant poem, Human Family. Which is essentially what a famous supermodel told me in a crowded, trendy breakfast spot on a sunny Thursday morning. We have to stick together.

Don't miss an inch of Erika's amazing website, and be sure to stay up to date with her on Instagram. All photos above are courtesy of Erika Veurink.

If you are interested in contributing a Midwest-inspired essay to My Midwest Is Showing, please email sammyjwalsh@gmail.com.