The City Space

Cultivating Urban Understanding

The Perfect Place

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Lighthouse on Lake Michigan

We’re all searching for the perfect place right? Maybe some of us have given up on finding it and maybe some of us have already landed there, but I bet most of us are still stuck somewhere in between. I recently had a revelation about what makes up that perfect place, and it starts, like many revelations, on a plane.

A couple weekends ago, I snuck away from a hectic workweek to spend some quality time with my little brother at his college in Baltimore and on the flight back, I happened to have a layover in Minneapolis. As most of you know, I spent most of my life in Minneapolis (until college) and my parents, along with some of my very good friends, still live there. As the plane touched down in the Twin Cities, a calm, joyous feeling came over me—the sensation of coming home. I hope you are familiar with it. That feeling didn’t surprise me, but the sensation I had when I left the airport for Milwaukee an hour later did.

For some reason, I didn’t experience the ache of leaving home. Instead, as my next flight took off for Milwaukee, I felt an even greater sense of the good place I have found myself in there. It’s not that Milwaukee’s a particularly special city nor even a world-class city (yet), but rather, that it is the right city for me now—first and foremost because of its proximity and similarity to my home.

Throughout my time in college in Walla Walla, WA, I constantly missed home. It would take me an entire day’s worth of travel–at least twelve hours and several hundred dollars–to get home to Minneapolis so I only went for a handful of holidays. Worse still, Walla Walla felt nothing like my hometown: it was small where Minneapolis was big, a desert while Minneapolis was in the land of 10,000 lakes, and the culture was completely different. Everyone and everything I loved was far away. Of course this changed over time as I got to know people and immersed in school, but that feeling of homesickness never left me. I am convinced that it is because of the literal distance between me and my home, and between all those indicators of home like water, Midwestern food and family. The simple knowledge that something is close by and accessible can provide peace of mind.

And now I have that. I can hop on a plane leaving Minneapolis knowing that that home is still available to me whenever I need to go back. It won’t take me more than a half-day’s train or bus ride or a short flight to get there. Furthermore, Milwaukee has rivers and a big lake (Michigan) that I cross over or walk along on a daily basis. The way the Milwaukee River runs through the downtown means there’s a particular spot where I am compelled to stop every single time I’m walking to my boyfriend’s bar because it is just so beautiful I can’t not. Lights from the houses on the river reflect in the water, you can see the bridges that cross over it on streets up ahead, and little boats are tied to the shoreline, bobbing peacefully. I run along this river, and Lake Michigan too. Water is everywhere around me and it’s presence comforts.

Maybe that’s a little bit what home feels like. It doesn’t have to be the place you grew up in, or the place where all your fond memories happened. It just needs the essence of those locations, and proximity to them. I’m not ready to move back to Minneapolis yet, but I’m glad I’ve found a place that feels a little like it. That’s enough for now.

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