Friends move, then Winter.

Friends back Home

Well, what was a mountaintop experience of graduating has quickly eroded into the summer doldrums. Unenhanced by the excitement and vigor of grad school, my Minnesota life has become clear, yet again. It’s a life mostly characterized by friends moving far away, generally in late August for whatever reason, followed by the quick and relentless pursuit of my least favorite season, Winter. And as the calendar made its tick to August this week, I felt reality close in on me. It’s coming.

Moving to Minnesota is a difficult lot. You’ve heard it said elsewhere, but I will reiterate here, it is nearly impossible to break into circles here. I won’t beat a dead horse by telling you that people here have had their friends for life, that they will meet you anywhere except in their homes, that they might say, “Let’s get together,” but they mostly don’t mean it, etc etc. Suffice it to say that all of those things you may have heard are painfully and regrettably true for many people who have moved here from elsewhere. So, my biggest success in making friends who will actually hang out and get involved with my life and my children has been with transplants. However, transplants move and so here we go again…

Transplants don’t leave Minnesota quietly, either. They generally leave in a blaze of glory, shouting their relief as they go. That they are FINALLY getting out. That it SUCKS to live here. That they are going back to where FRIENDS can be made and the WEATHER doesn’t threaten your life.

Their parting sentiments only reinforce my already well-weathered struggles with living here and exacerbate the late summer blues. This year feels different, though. It’s getting to a point. There are a few reasons I stay: My kids are happy and I have a job. These are things that are really great and I am not making light of them. But those things aside, it is becoming difficult to look at our future in Minnesota and imagine an entire life lived without the security and comfort of a big crew of friends and family and friends-as-family in and amongst my daily life.

Mostly I feel scared. I am sure this is driven in part by my obvious depression of late, but I am scared of living without a network of people to lean on during the hard times and to enjoy during the good times. When we return to NJ for visits I am always struck by the depth of my relationships there and by the genuine quality of people’s affection for us. They love us, they love our kids, they want us in their homes, they want to know us, and the feeling is mutual.

I have not found much of that here, and that’s with much effort. It’s not that I haven’t found it at all, but mostly I have found it with the people who keep moving on. And with the ones who stay, it seems to take so much work because it’s not second nature here to really live life with and invest in people other than family or life-long friends. You can’t make people include you. You can’t make them believe your kids are important or that theirs are important enough to you that sure, you’d go to that hockey game just like a blood relative might. You certainly can’t convince them to call you when they need something because they don’t want to owe you anything. Believe me, I have tried. It was never this hard back home. People back home make you their family without asking, whether you are blood-related or not. That’s just not the way here.

Minnesota is not a bad place. It’s a great place if you are from here. But what I have realized of late, is that I am not from here 🙂 . I will never be from here. It doesn’t matter if I become a Twins fan, go to the State Fair, eat cheese curds and walleye, go to the cabin, graduate from the U or entertain myself in Minneapolis. I will never be FROM here and without that rite of birth, I will never be one of them. As my one friend put it, there is some sort of code to living here and getting “in” and those from the outside just aren’t provided with said code.

The Minnesotans might talk to me, enjoy my company, think I am an interesting and forthright person, but when it comes to holidays or family parties, we are not of the tribe.

Minnesota, you nearly have me beat. My resolve is weakening. And maybe that’s the point. Texas has a saying you see all over billboards there, “You’re not from Texas, but Texas wants you anyway.” That is not the case here in MN. It’s more like, “Outsiders, how long before you go home?” Maybe, in the end, the goal is our surrender.

I have often felt as though returning home to NJ would be like coming full circle, and that was in some way admitting defeat. Well, that may be true, but maybe defeat is ok if you are returning to the open arms of the people who know you and want to know you more. I’m not sure, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to not consider giving up. Maybe one day I’d like to wake up and just feel settled like I used to in NJ, where a 1200 mile move wasn’t always something on the horizon  to consider.