Growing up, I’ve always loved the idea of living in the South. Something about the idea of sunshine, sweet tea, and fresh seafood has always enticed me to planting my roots in the southern states (Nicholas Sparks novels might have instilled this desire within me as well). Anyways, I’ve always felt that I belong in the South. Lately, however, I’ve done some reflecting on growing up in the beautiful, Midwestern state of Iowa. What I’ve realized is that I could not have imagined a better place to grow up, learn, and experience the simplest pleasures of life than in my home state of IA.
Something I consider truly unique about Iowa is the neighborly way in which people interact with others. I’ve come to deeply appreciate the tight-knit sense of community I’ve experienced in my childhood, and even now. As a child, I vividly remember running around in Iowa’s summer nights with all the neighbor kids playing hide and go seek tag. There was never a shortage of wiffleball, water-gun fights, kickball, tag, or hide and go seek in the summer. I also remember spending summer evenings in my elderly neighbors’ driveways sitting on my parents’ laps in folding chairs, listening to the adults’ discussion about life’s matters. As a teenager attending a moderate sized high school by Iowa standards (my graduating class was 160), I saw this sense of community reflected in both good and bad times. For example, my sophomore year when I was apart of the girl’s varsity basketball team we went from winning one game the previous season to a winning record the next. With this came the opportunity to go to the state basketball tournament. Our community was so proud of us; they gave us police escorts to Wells Fargo Arena, they packed the arena for the tournament games, and they were there with us even upon our loss in the semifinals of the state tournament. In the bad times, when a young Carlisle alumni’s life tragically came to an end, our school and community wrapped one another in overwhelming love and support and grieved together. I would not have traded my tight-knit community for any other city for these reasons.
In Iowa, we have cornfields. Not a huge ocean, but cornfields. I used to consider cornfields so boring and insignificant, but it wasn’t until I picked sweet corn this past summer that I have gained a new view on this mundane feature of Iowa. After waking up at 5 a.m. to go walk through wet and muggy fields of sweet corn and witnessing the prettiest sunrises I’ve yet encountered, I can say that cornfields have a unique beauty about them. There’s nothing more raw and delicious as an ear of freshly picked sweet corn while you’re sopping wet and covered in scratches from the unsuspecting leaves of a cornstalk. Perhaps what made the simple taste so gratifying is the hard work which preceded the moment of my teeth sinking into a juicy ear of Iowa sweet corn. Having an awareness of the strenuous work farmers put into their farms to produce food for America is quite rewarding and eye-opening. Given this, I can say that Iowa has taught me that hard work shouldn’t be something you partake in once in awhile, rather it should be so routine that it defines your way of life.
Finally, something I am absolutely enamored with is Iowa’s changing seasons. God’s artwork is truly on full display with the transitions between all four seasons. From summer to autumn, the changing of leaves from a healthy green to the vibrant, warm colors of fall and the harvest time for the fields is witnessed by all. From autumn to winter, a piercing, distinct coldness arrives with the first snowfall, and who doesn’t enjoy a picturesque white Christmas? From winter to spring, the snow finally begins to melt after an arduous, chilling winter and the trees and grass slowly regain life and greenness. Then, from spring to summer, nights begin to become warmer and excitement is in the air because everyone loves a long, steamy Iowa summer. I don’t believe I would find nearly as much enjoyment out of life with no changes in seasons because the differences help me to truly welcome each arriving season with more gratitude for all God has blessed me with in this life.
Yes, I love everything about Iowa. I love the people I’ve met, the values that have been instilled in me and the hope of a fantastic future living in the state that raised me to be the very person I am today. So, while I often find myself desiring a better life elsewhere, I truly think that the best life for me is right here where my roots are firmly established. This isn’t to say that there is no possibility of me venturing to the South to live my Southern dream, but for now I’m positive that Iowa is where I need to be.