I visited my hometown this past weekend. It was the MEA break so an opportune time to make the trek across South Dakota to Rapid City. For those of you wanting to visit, the directions from Minneapolis are simple: Head south on I-35 and turn right at I-90. Drive forever.
For those of you who think I am exaggerating, clearly you’ve never made the drive. Mind you, I’m not judging it – I’m simply stating the facts. The reality is that some of the best times in my life have been spent watching the sun rise in my rear view mirror. It meant I was headed home.
Visiting your hometown is always an interesting experience. It’s your home – but it’s not. You know where most things are and know how to get wherever you might be going. Many things are just as you remember them. Some things have changed a little. Some things are new. But the essence of the place is still the same. It smells the same. It looks the same. The weather is still the same – 20 degrees warmer than it should be – 81F and a sunny, clear blue sky on October 18.
While growing up, my hometown seemed like a pretty big place. Now, not so much. It’s not that you can drive from one end of town to the other in second gear (like you could in my mom’s hometown) but you can drive from one end to the other, through town in traffic, in half an hour. One afternoon I visited my friend Barb who works at the Dahl Fine Arts Center. She gave me the full tour (I hadn’t been in the place since high school) and showed me the expansion, the behind-the-scenes areas, the newly constructed event center and the remodeled old MDU building which is now the office space. It was great to see how the place has changed and improved and great to see my hometown showing a commitment to the arts as well. As I left to go meet family for dinner, she advised me about how to miss the ‘rush hour’ traffic. I couldn’t help it – I laughed out loud. I gave myself 20 minutes to make the trip. I made it in 8. I laughed out loud again.
Being in your hometown reminds you of who you were when you were there. You replay events from your childhood. You see the house where you grew up, your old schools, your old church. You drive the street that used to be the ‘place to be seen’ when you were in high school. It all looks smaller now. You wonder what your life would have been like had you stayed. You try to imagine it – get a mental picture. Who would you be? What would you be doing? Who would you know? What would you be concerned about? You would be different – that is certain.
Being in your hometown also reminds you that you have the power to become. You have choice. You are not limited by your birth place or your birth station. You aren’t stuck being someone or something that doesn’t fit. You can change. You can become. You are allowed to grow into the person you wish to be. It’s up to you to make that choice. Once you have done that, if you like, you can always go visit – for a little while - the person you used to be. Then it’s time to get back in the car, put the visor down, and head back home – into the sunrise.
5 hours ago