A Place to Belong
March 5, 2007
It was in March, many years ago, that I left North Dakota for New Hampshire, in search of a place to belong. That’s what I called it to myself—a place to belong. A place to fit in. A place with people like me. I’d already tried the Pacific Northwest and decided that wasn’t for me, so I headed in the other direction.
I fell in love with New Hampshire, and felt it was a privilege to live there. But the entire time, I was always a North Dakota farm girl living in New Hampshire. When they bragged about their tough New England winters, I snickered, and reveled in the 20 degree temps. I loved the lush green grass and the trees, but missed the wide open spaces. The only time I ever saw a sunset was from the top of a mountain. I had a wonderful community of friends, but they had all known each other forever, and most of them were New Hampshire natives, and I could never really be one of them. Oh, I loved it there, don’t misunderstand, and I didn’t mind. I was who I was, and I was fine with that.
Then the time came to move back to North Dakota. It was hard leaving New Hampshire, but it was good to come home to the wide open spaces and people who understood. North Dakota is different. We’re a bit more close-knit, work a bit harder. We’re a rural state, and, no matter what we do for a living, we are all affected by the farming community. There are certain things we all just understand. If we have a dry summer or a heavy winter, we all worry, city and farm dwellers alike, because it touches all of us. There is a certain informality, whether we work in a suit and tie or jeans. A doctor or lawyer has to be able to relate to the farmers who are his clients. And he most likely can, because his parents, or at least his grandparents, were probably farmers. There is an understated hardiness. We don’t brag about our bitterly cold winters and hot, dry summers—we just deal with them. There is a certain independence, a “you do what you have to do” attitude. Politicians bypass us, and other states make jokes about us. We’re used to being ignored by the rest of the country. Fine, we don’t need you, either. It’s not an easy state to live in. If people stay here, it’s because they love it, because everybody knows they could make a much better living just about anyplace else. If you stay, it’s because it’s in your blood, and you can’t stay away.
I was at a meeting last night, and a friend and I started zinging quotes back and forth from a rather weird book we had both read. I thought, “It is so nice to be around people who think the way I do!” Then today I was talking to a friend about the differences between North Dakota and New Hampshire, explaining to her why a snow angel record was a Big Deal around here.
Suddenly I had an epiphany. This is where I belong.
How ironic that all my life I dreamed of a place to belong, to fit in, and I'm happiest right where I started out!