Back in the US: Observations on Minnesota, from Inside to Out.
I grew up in Minnesota. I speak fondly of this place. Ever since I moved to California, I'm always talking about how wonderful Minneapolis is. "The arts", I say. "The culture, the people, the music". In reality, I realize I've been speaking about a place that in the seven years since I've truly lived here, I barely even know.
This year, it's hit the hardest. Because ever since I moved out West, I've only ever spent short periods of time in Minnesota - a few weeks with family around Christmas. Occasional visits over the summer.
In the past few weeks, I've had to make a lot of adjustments. Coming back to the US off six months of travel through Africa and Europe, I knew I was bound to feel a sense of lethargy - a sudden change of pace. And the first few days, I admit, were really hard. Suddenly, I knew no one. I was back in my hometown, but I felt more alone than I had in Cameroon, or France, or Spain.
But then, I tried something. I applied the same sort of attitude, open-mindedness, and sense of adventure with which I had approached Johannesburg and Cape Town, Paris and Barcelona - I decided I would get to know this city. I would meet people. I would make this my home again....
In the first week or so, I was quite optimistic. I did exactly as I had planned, and I met a lot of cool people in the process. I met one of my current favorite artists. I saw one of my favorite DJs perform.
I felt really happy about how, and where, everything was at. I felt reassured that it didn't really matter where I was - as long as I kept a positive attitude and open heart, good times would be had, and good people could be found everywhere.
This week, I feel like that notion has been set back, just a bit.
This week, for the first time in a long time, I met with what I can only describe as... resistance. Aversion. Maybe I've gotten too used to traveling alone, and being forced to step out of my comfort zone to interact with people. Maybe I've started to feel it's "too normal" to walk up to strangers and strike up a conversation.
But.... how can that really be a bad thing? In Minneapolis, of all places, I would not expect people to knock you for being friendly, or for being open. But I definitely felt that this week, and it made me really sad: feeling like such an outsider here in the city I was raised.
In some ways, I've always been an outsider in Minneapolis. I've never lived in an Asian-populated neighborhood; I've always been the only one. I never had money, but I went to the wealthiest school. My classmates drove Audis; I took the public bus. My neighborhood kids were studying Algebra, I was doing Vector Calculus. Perhaps Minnesota was never really 'mine' - just as much as it isn't, now.