Earlier this week I went to a dinner party at my aunt’s house and spoke to a woman, Sandy, about the differences between the east coast and west coast. I talked about how alien the east coast felt to me, with its blue blood WASPishness, old money, strange traditions and customs, and older cities (though American cities aren’t really that old compared to, say, European ones). The general “New England-ness” of New England felt like another planet, one in which I felt very much a foreigner.
"I was born and raised in the west so I feel very much a part of this place. It’s in my blood," said Sandy.
Then it hit me: the reason why I feel so at home here. Because the west is in my blood too. I never really felt tied to a sense of place until I realized that I was. I was born and raised west of the Mississippi and never traveled east of it until I trekked to Brooklyn. My dad was born and raised in Nebraska, as were his parents (and maybe even his grandparents, I can’t remember). My mom was born and raised in Arizona, as were my grandparents and a few of my great-grandparents. The western half of the US has been a part of my family for a century and longer.
I was trying to think about why and how that makes it home for me, and why living here feels so right when living on the east coast felt so wrong. I think it’s the whole western feeling, that Wild West, American frontier ethos that celebrates the impassioned carefree spirit of change and newness. It’s about being surrounded by an untamed wild and a big open sky. It’s a place where people have survived and thrived by innovation. One could argue the same about the east coast, that the pilgrims tamed their own wild beast on the coasts of Virginia and Massachusetts, but I feel like that wildness of the wild west still pervades even today, and for much of the east coast that feeling is long gone.