We can’t choose where we’re from. I think that’s one reason why so many people hold resentment towards their hometown and home state. It’s easy to get lost thinking about how different our lives would be if only we were born and raised somewhere more interesting or more beautiful. Here at college, where many people meet peers from different parts of the country for the first time, one’s hometown seems to be especially important. But even though Ohio, my home state, has been the subject of much ridicule from both Kenyon students and meme-makers, I can’t bring myself to resent it.
Most jokes about Ohio center around one of these ideas: that Ohio is simply the worst, most depressing state to live in, that there’s nothing to do here, or that it’s all farmland. In reality, Ohio has multiple large metropolitan areas that are culturally diverse and filled with unique activities, as well as a lake shoreline with beautiful beach towns. Even if this criticism were true, I think we place far too much importance on cities and metropolitan areas. The countryside of Ohio is not only beautiful, but is a fun and charming place to visit, even just for a hike.
It sounds cliche, but the people are one of the parts I love most about Ohio. There are so many different demographics represented in the population of the state, from race to class to political views to religion. Although some areas of the state are a bit homogenous, there are a wide variety of landscapes here, from Amish farms to beachside cottages to high-rise apartment buildings. Ohioans are diverse, but that doesn’t mean we have nothing in common. “Midwest politeness” is a real thing. We say hello to strangers as we pass them on the street, and are likely to go out of our way to help people we don’t even know if we see they’re in trouble. And I think being the butt of so many jokes has made us stronger as a state community; we share a certain camaraderie. We have the important ability to make fun of ourselves.
I think, maybe, that the tendency of people from the coasts to pick on Midwestern states is rooted in classism and elitism. Far less “old money” lives here than on the east coast, and far less “new money” lives here than on the west coast. There aren’t a lot of prestigious high schools or colleges here, and our idea of a big, fancy house is nothing compared to one you might find in Boston or Los Angeles. I’m really starting to sound like an old man who’s lived in Ohio for eighty years, aren’t I? But my point is this: just because Ohio has a lot of corn doesn’t mean that people hate living here. Although many of us grow to resent our hometowns, I believe, like the protagonist Christine in the movie Lady Bird, the majority of people still have love for the places we spent our most formative years, whether we are willing to admit it or not.