And yes, for your snarky types who think there is no life outside of the coasts, I do miss Appleton: I love the Lawrence campus, because it’s beautiful and peaceful; I miss the big skies and stars and the clear, clear air on cold winter nights; I miss the bunnies and raccoons and geese and cormorants and songbirds that are a daily sight. I miss teaching, and I miss the students when I’m not teaching too, and I miss living in a community of intellectual community engagement.
I am also in awe of anyone who grew up outside of a city like New York and who has found a way NOT to conform in a small city like Appleton; I find maintaining my independence and artsiness really, really challenging there. I have had to change so much, and only now, back in New York, am I aware of the daily small compromises: no good bagels, no gas stoves, no good cheap Italian food or inexpensive salons for manicures, pedicures, or waxing; no radiator heat. It is often a struggle to explain that “tea” does not mean chamomile to a coffee culture. Add to that not liking beer, being professionally queer and a vegetarian, and having a conscientious objector relationship with football — let’s just say it hasn’t been a tidy landing for me, and I’m sure I’ve complained plenty. This trip home has given me at least some perspective on what kinds of ways I might try to adjust going forward, and in the meanwhile, I am more thankful for the progressive politicians, artistic friends and other displaced coasties than anyone might imagine, but especially to those who have expressed empathy while they watched me try to fit this square peg into the round hole that is Appleton.
So as much as it’s been one of the most difficult experiences of my life, I still find life in Appleton lovely in ways I could have never imagined as a lifelong New Yorker and alt urbanite.