• Ryan P Freeman

A Midwestern Shire


Location. I know it's been a rather divisive topic ever since someone way back when started claiming it as 'theirs'. Throughout my life, it's been a fascinating take on just how much where one lives influences the person. I feel like the relatively recent push to divide this topic between physicality and genetics is a bit forced. Like, are those really the only two teams, and must we really pick one or the other to identify with?

Anyways, I just got finished with Feb's St Louis Writers Guild meeting, where the speaker was talking about editors and editing. I know, I know, hang with me here - it's not quite as 180 as you might be thinking. During the course of the presentation, I was able to ask about whether she thought environment was a factor for what sorts of beta readers and editing services were easily accessible- or, if the Internet was now acting as a sort of universal leveler for opportunity. (I've made my question a bit longer and in-depth here, but the essence is still the same)

She blinked.

"I don't think anyone's ever asked that before...?" she responded. "All in all, I guess I'd have to say I think the Internet has been the leveler..."

But I'm sitting here - in a packed meeting room at the Lodge DePere down in St Louis - an hour and a half from home - listening to a woman who moved away from St Louis to L.A.

Think about it.

Lately, I've been working through the whole 'belonging' question. I want to be able to say I belong somewhere, but the more I live in Hannibal, the more and more I'm realizing just how 'not from there' I really am. Also, last month I realized that while I claim New Mexico, I've now lived in Missouri for longer. Weird. I don't think of myself as a Missourian. I don't think other Mid-westerners think of me as Midwestern. Curiouser and Curiouser.

Location. Belonging. Home.

Where do I fit? - A younger me would try to dance around the question. I'd probably try to posit the notion that I don't need to belong somewhere - or perhaps, that I associate with an idea or group which defies state boundaries... but now, I just don't think that's true. Physical location. The good earth on which we all stand, matters. Where we stand on it matters. Who we associate and are associated with matters.

Coming from a fiercely independent tradition out of the Pacific Northwest (there I go claiming belonging like a calling-card membership again...), the Midwest is a strange place. A land of meat-and-potatoes America is quaint and idyllic when glimpsed at via Norman Rockwell... but a whole 'nother animal all together when lived in year after year. What is 'normal' is not at all Normal. What is common-place is anything but. Herd-Mentality reigns. Individuality is considered dangerous and Shire-esque virtues are lauded.

It is a land, "where change comes slowly... if it comes at all..."

I crave Culture - modern, relevant, and free. I don't understand why it takes so long to trickle in off the Mississippi nether-lands along the Missourian and Illinoisan banks. Honestly, it takes about 10 or so YEARS for popular music to get here. For tech innovations to become feasible - more like 15-20. Widespread cultural acceptance... 100's.

Anyways, I could blather on here... but I wont.

What do you think about Internet as the 'Great Leveler' of opportunity?

How does your current location affect your sense of belonging?

- Ryan


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