She’s Not From Around Here: The Other Side of the Midwest

Written by: Amy Allendar
Recently we entertained the idea of relocating to another part of the Midwest—turns out I don’t think I’m quite ready.
Amy Allender photo

Last weekend my family spent a few days in the suburbs north of Detroit, MI. The reason feels like a dirty secret, but I’ll say it anyway: we were there because my husband had been recruited for a job interview.

To put it on paper that our family is even entertaining the idea of a move out of Hot Dish Land feels incredibly hypocritical—especially coming from Minot’s biggest fan. But it’s the truth.

Most of our family lives in northern Indiana. My husband is attached to a National Guard unit in Michigan. As much as we love life in NoDak, keeping an ear to the ground for opportunities that would decrease his commute, and allow our children to know their extended family is appealing to us.

But a move away from Hot Dish Land isn’t something we are pursuing flippantly. Life in Minot has set a high bar. If we move, we want to be absolutely positive we aren’t opting for a downgrade.

While my husband, Derek attended the interview, I planned to visit a few nearby communities with intention of feeling out whether they’d be a good fit for us.

We had about three hours to explore, but I soon discovered finding my way around to be challenging. First of all, the roads weren’t laid out in a neat grid. Roads seemed to go every which way—and none of them were labeled by number and quadrant (ie 3rd Ave SE.) Indeed, there were no quadrants to these towns. I literally couldn’t not get my bearings.
Next, each time I punched a possible destination into the maps app on my phone, I was met with the bad news that everything seemed to be 30 minutes away. Thirty minutes?! Excuse me, but who has time for that kind of commute? Who has that kind of endurance? My children do not have that kind of car-riding stamina. We brace ourselves for the weekly trip to base for grocery pick up. If we go south of 20th Ave South, we pack snacks.

Not knowing exactly where to go, or what to do, we spent an hour in the hotel room. I hoped my littlest would nap, but the boys ended up jumping on beds, while I furiously Googled towns nearby that might be worth a drive through.

Turns out, the opposite side of the Midwest is much more densely populated than NoDak. Everything bleeds together into one big blob of populated area. How does one choose where to live? What if you live in Farmington, but decide you want to go to church in Rochester, and you discover your new best friend lives in Brighton—and they are all 30 minutes away from each other? Limitless options, limitless stress. It all seemed very high stakes for someone who struggles to decide whether to get the kneophla from Schatz Crossroads or Kroll’s Diner.

Eventually, armed with a list of small communities, I buckled my boys into their car seats and boldly drove away. Only 30 minutes to destiny.

We drove through one commercial district. Then another. And another. And another. By the time we reached our intended destination, my youngest was asleep, and it was obvious this wasn’t a place I wanted to live. I’d chosen poorly.
There was no time to try again. We needed to pick up my husband. Again, I watched the scenery going by, noting of the endless choices of places to shop, worship, eat, and live. I was completely overwhelmed. Then I remembered—this is normal. This used to be normal to me. My parents each commuted 30 minutes to work—each in different towns.
When I first moved to Minot, the shock was the lack of options, not the fire hose of choices.

A few days I read options from a list on my laptop, “It says here the fee for twice-weekly arts camp is only $15. Or you can do t-ball again. The Y has day camp. Or we could look into soccer, or zoo camp.”

“This is the stuff we need to consider when we talk about moving. It’s not just the place, but the quality of life we can have there. Even if a town has more choices, would we really take advantage of them if the commute is long, or it’s too expensive?” my husband replied.

He’s right. It’s not that we’ll never move, but right now Minot, ND is good to us. Right now, it’s a good fit. Right now, nothing seems better than a place where run into friends when we go out. A place where we can easily afford summer activities, zoo memberships, tickets to the symphony, or the community pool. A place with more free fun than we can take advantage of through parks programs, library activities, downtown events, brass band concerts, and a myriad of playgrounds—all within a ten-minute drive.

For now, I’m happy to be right here in Hot Dish Territory. I’m happy to laugh at my misadventures in the Michigan suburbs, and smile at how accustom I’ve become to place that once seemed so vastly different. I’m not from around here, but I sure have gotten used to it.

For more stories from Hot Dish Land and tips for honing a positive mindset, join me on Instagram @amy_allender or Facebook @amyallenderblog.

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