I'm sitting here writing this from Oahu, Hawaii. My new home. It's crazy to think that. I've grown up my whole life in the heart of the Midwest: Kansas. I traveled in college and lived temporarily in both England and Florida, but I've never permanently left the sunflower state as my home of residence until now.
Growing up I absolutely loathed Kansas. I hated that it was rural. I hated that there wasn't mountains or oceans or big cities. I couldn't do the things my heart desired living in Kansas, or so I thought. Now, having traveled the world a bunch and living where those things I love do exist (mountains/cities/oceans), I realized I took a couple of things for granted growing up in the Midwest, things I think the rest of the world could learn from good ole Kansas. Here are the 9 things I learned the most growing up in the heart of the Midwest:
1) A Smile Goes a Long Way
I really don't understand why in big cities, particularly the west and east coast (as well as in Europe) it's a foreign concept to smile at a stranger as you pass them on the street. I know it's a cultural thing, but I'm so glad the Midwest taught me to be considerate to strangers. To give someone a smile in passing for no reason other than to silently say, "Have a good day."
2) Be Kind
This seems ridiculously silly to me that this is something that's not a universal rule, but it should be. Be kind. That's it. Be considerate to someone other than yourself. Think of how you can bless others or make someone else's day better. Even something as simple as holding doors open for the person behind you, and saying "Please" and "Thank You" can go such a long way. I remember my husband and I were hiking in Northern California earlier this year. On the trail every time we passed other people Andrew would say "Hello," or "Have a great day," and a majority of the time he was met with no response or even worse no eye contact. Like...what? The Midwest spoiled us in that regard, but I'm glad it did. I want to live my life being the person on the trail that says "Hello" to a stranger instead of the person with their head down not making eye contact at others.
3) Driving Across Town in 5 Minutes is a Luxury
I've never experienced bad traffic in Kansas. Even in Kansas City it's not bad. Bad traffic is traveling from Anaheim, California to downtown LA at 8:30am in the morning. (Worst experience EVER.) There's nothing like seeing you're 1 mile away from your destination and the estimated time of arrival is 1 hour. THAT is bad. Back in my home town I would leave my house 5 minutes before I had to be anywhere. I didn't realize that was a luxury until I started visiting bigger cities outside of the Midwest.
4) It's Nice to Know Everyone in Town
Okay okay, so sometimes this isn't so nice.... haha. But really, if you think about it, it's pretty awesome to know a majority of people when you go into the grocery store. This never ever happens in metropolitan areas. I didn't realise this was a good thing until I lived in places other than Kansas. There can be something very freeing about going somewhere and not knowing a single soul, but after that feeling of freedom wears off, honestly you start feeling really lonely. You feel alone. You feel like you don't belong. The Midwest taught me that living in a town where you know a lot of people can actually be a blessing in disguise.
5) Not Having to Wait in Lines is Awesome
Being from the Midwest typically means you're from a place a lot less populated than most. Less people means less waiting in lines for... well everything. The checkout at the grocery store. The car wash. The DMV. (....okay actually you're still gonna wait at the DMV because it's the DMV...) I didn't realise how lucky I was that I rarely had to wait in lines growing up. Living in bigger cities, there's a ton of people often doing the same thing. You're gonna have to wait a hot second to get where you want and what you want.
6) The Value of a Dollar
Growing up in the Midwest taught me that nothing in life gets handed to you. I learned the value of working hard for the things you want. No cheating. No cutting corners. Do the hard work, and do it well. You will be rewarded for that.
7) Put God First and Foremost
I know not everyone believes in God or even a higher power, but for me, He is my everything. I would not be the woman I am today without my faith and relationship with Jesus. I'm really thankful I grew up in a place that prioritized faith in God at a young age. Because of this, I chose to follow God and use His Word as the backbone for my life. Choosing to follow Jesus has been the single best decision of my entire life.
8) Community is EVERYTHING
I believe so fully that we were made to be in community. You were not meant to do this life alone, and something the Midwest taught me was the value of community. Whether it's a church, your group of friends, your family, your neighbourhood, or even a social club, community is what makes us come alive. It allows us to build relationships with others and that is something in this life that is SO important.
9) It Challenged Me to Be Creative
Lastly, It's probably no secret that there's less things to do in the rural Midwest than in big cities. The Midwest is obviously less populated than most parts of the US and the world, so us Midwesterners had to get a little creative growing up. There aren't as many activities or opportunities in a small Kansas town, and back then this was a huge reason I didn't like living there. My friends and I used to go to Walmart when we were bored...haha. We'd play tag or come up with creative games to play along the aisles. Now I can see that living in a place where you can get easily bored helped foster my creativity. One of my favourite (and now most embarrassing!) things I did in middle and high school because of boredom was make silly music videos with my friends to popular pop songs and then use my creativity to edit them. I 100% believe doing that as a young teenager had an affect in me wanting to pursue something creative as a career, and ultimately becoming a creative entrepreneur.
In closing I definitely want to address that in no way do I believe that you can't learn these things elsewhere. You definitely can. I don't mean to come across saying that if you didn't grow up in the Midwest you're not a good person, cause HA, that is ridiculous. There's beauty in every place if you look for it, and I wanted to write this post because I think often Kansas and the Midwest gets a bad rap. Legitimately the other day I was walking down Waikiki beach and I had a shirt on that said "Kansas City." I guy suddenly called out to me saying, "You're a long way from home. There ain't no pony express here." I gave him a half-hearted laugh and rolled my eyes as I walked away.
Yes, the Midwest is less populated, there's less things to do, and it's kinda in the middle of nowhere. But it's also a beautiful place to grow up. It taught me so much about this life and how to be a responsible, grateful, honest person. So maybe there's no mountains, oceans, or big cities in Kansas, but there's a whole lot of love, heart, and grit. I will always be proud to call the Sunflower State my home.
P.S. Before I go, I gotta get this off my chest..... The sunflower photo at the top of this page..... I actually took it in Hawaii. Oops. Ironic I know. But I just had to be up front about that. ;) Okay, byeeee. Have a great day!
Lindsey Roman is an adventurous, destination wedding and intimate elopement photographer based out of Oahu, Hawaii and available worldwide. She lives for outdoor adventures, intimate moments, and candid images. Her style is raw, passionate, and authentic. She believes in chasing sunsets, laughing too hard, and most importantly: capturing genuine moments that evoke feeling over perfectly posed photographs.