Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to get out of South Dakota and never really look back. I looked forward to the day where I could pack up all my things and move far, far away, but when that day finally came, it wasn't all that it's cracked up to be.
By no means do I regret moving to Michigan and going to my dream school. I love it more than I could have ever imagined, but being so far from my hometown makes me think about what my home state means to me and how it has shaped me into the person I am today, whether I like the idea or not.
When I tell people at school that I'm from South Dakota, they usually either look shocked or laugh. In high school, I would tell my friends that I couldn't wait to leave my small, boring and plain state, but now that I'm in college, I realize how much I actually love South Dakota.
Now, every time my friends in college make fun of South Dakota, I get the automatic instinct to defend it, which may seem silly, but it is the place I grew up and spent most of my life, so it is always going to be special to me.
I've learned to tell people that I'm from the largest city in South Dakota so that they don't ask questions about whether I have any neighbors, or if I have a buffalo wandering around. I have all these little fun facts to pull out on people if my home state ever needs defending, because the more time I spend away from South Dakota, the prouder I am that I was born in the heartland of America.
Being back home for the summer has reminded me so much of what it means to be a South Dakotan. I used to think that living and growing up in South Dakota limited my options and opportunities, but I know now that that is totally untrue. If anything, it taught me to make the most out of the small stuff. When I was given an opportunity, I knew they wouldn't come around too often so I learned that I had to seize it.
Another thing that I learned is that no one does kindness like South Dakotans, especially people from Sioux Falls. It is a city of nearly 200,000 people, so it's a
well developed area with just enough people that it doesn't feel like a small town, but you basically either know everyone personally or have heard their last name before. Everyone, and I mean everyone is kind, complimentary and has great manners. I have never been in another city where so many people ask how you are and truly mean it, hold the door and even just give a soft smile and wave to strangers.
There is so much more to South Dakota than meets the eye, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. Sioux Falls will always be my home. I will continue to defend it and cherish the memories I had there forever, even if I never move back because after all, it is where I grew up and it's where my family is.
Wherever you come from, be proud of it. I love my home state and will always be a proud South Dakotan.