“Kara, put the camera away. I swear to God. Kara! This is not going to be some blog post. I better not see my face blown up on the internet somewhere on some website…”
This weekend I flew to Iowa for the first time since Labor Day, 2015. After a year away from my home state, I bought a last-minute plane ticket for the Iowa vs. ISU game.
I was three hours in to an eight-hour tailgate when I started snapping pictures. My old neighbor and brother’s friend-since-childhood Jason was not having it.
Looks like you got your wish J, because I had way too many Bush Lights for any of those photos to come out sharp. Those images turned out like my vision that morning: blurry.
With the exception of my immediate family, I’ve known Jason longer than any person on the face of this Earth. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. He all but lived at my house growing up, so unless someone intercepted me coming home from the hospital, he carries the streak.
Most of my family’s friends are like that. I grew up in a world where friendship meant community. My parents have been best friends with their friends for forty-plus years. My brother’s friends have known each other for twenty-five.
Your surroundings don’t really matter—it’s about the people who surround you.
In Iowa, I have this reputation for being the girl who left home and never came back. They think I left fields and open spaces for tiny square footage, lots of cement, or a job title. They don’t understand how I can survive in a place where noise and rent pries are high and roots and a sense of belonging are low.
In DC, it’s the complete opposite: Friends and coworkers don’t understand how someone could survive in a town of three restaurants, two hours away from the nearest airport, mall, or Target. They’re blown away by the fact that less people live in my hometown than my current block.
What both sides fail to understand is I live the exact same life in Iowa that I do in DC. My surroundings just look really different.
Do you know what I did this Sunday in Iowa? I was hungover as hell, I sat around a campfire, and I caught up with family friends recapping which parts of the football game I blacked out in. Do you know what I would have done had I been in DC? I would have been hungover as hell, sitting on a rooftop, recapping Saturday night with my friends about which parts I blacked out in.
Ok maybe I wouldn’t have blacked out—the Iowa game was a special occasion. ‘
The funny thing is, my godmother actually asked me what I would be doing had I been in DC. I told her point-blank, “Honestly, the exact same thing. The only difference is I’d be sitting on my friend’s rooftop surrounding a smoker instead of this fire.” [DC landlords typically frown upon open flames—just a heads up.]
Do you define home as a building or city, or do you define it by the people who live there?
My college roommate and I lived together three-out-of-four years. The one year we lived apart, we made it all of two months before promising to live together again senior year. When we moved into our apartment for our last year of college, Michelle hung a sign on the wall that read, It’s not the character of the place that matters, rather it’s the characters IN the place.
That sign is how I feel about Iowa and DC. It doesn’t matter what state I live in (er…I guess I don’t technically live in a state), whether my street is pavement or gravel, or the population of my zipcode. The people I’m surrounded by make both places feel like home.
I carried Michelle’s sign through five states and God-knows how many apartments. As of two weeks ago, I moved to a new place and it’s currently sitting propped up on my dining room floor. It doesn’t really make sense anymore since I’m living on my own, but I don’t have the heart to throw it out.
My family is very lucky to have a community of lifelong friends surrounding them. I am very lucky to not only have ties back home, but that in a city of a gazillion people, I found that same caliber of awesome people.