Friday, November 22, 2013

Is this Heaven?

One of my friends moved away from Iowa this summer.  Another one of my friends is considering moving to Iowa in the future.  Both of these events (and a bit of soul-searching) have had me thinking about what it means to be a happy Iowan.

Some people hate living in Iowa.  Others love it here.  I'm one of the latter.  Despite spending time in 18 states other than Iowa, I can't imagine living anywhere else. (Except maybe Wisconsin. I friggin' love Wisconsin!)  I'm going to approach this blog post in the same way that I approach my other passion - Dobermans.  When talking to prospective Doberman owners, I tell them all the reasons why not to get a dobe.  So today I'm going to tell you why not to move to Iowa.

If you crave big-city living, don't move to Iowa.  We have a few cities that are on the larger side (Des Moines: 207,000 people  /  Cedar Rapids: 128,000 people) but nothing that rivals Chicago or Los Angeles.  Small cities and small towns are the norm here.  Contrary to popular belief, small towns aren't always full of harpies that "know everyone's business."  My town has a population of about 1,500 people and we basically keep to ourselves.  The police officers and city council know me pretty well, but only because I'm the resident "dog expert" in town and sometimes they appreciate my help in dog-related matters.  It's not the end of the world if I forget to lock my car, and I almost never lock my front door when someone is home.  That is not to say that breaking into my home is a good idea though, which brings me to my next point...

If guns make you uncomfortable, don't move to Iowa.  Iowa is an open-carry state.  That means that residents with the proper permits can carry weapons in full view of the public.  In Iowa, it is extremely easy to get a permit to carry.  While we do not have an official castle doctrine (yet), we are granted civil immunity if we injure someone in self defense.  Furthermore, the law doesn't require Iowans to "run and hide" from intruders and/or attackers before reaching for our firearms.  Along the same line of discussion...

If hunting makes you uncomfortable, don't move to Iowa.  We have a strong hunting community here in Iowa.  Iowans love to hunt!  We're in the middle of deer season right now, but we also hunt turkey, duck, pheasant, goose, and small game.  Trapping is also common in Iowa.  If you're looking to hunt something a bit bigger, Minnesota and Wisconsin are just a few hours north!  (Side note:  Iowa has no large predators, aside from the occasional transient mountain lion.  Hunting in Iowa generally means you don't have to worry about something hunting you.)

If hearty eating offends you, don't move to Iowa.  Don't get me wrong - there are plenty of healthy options available here, but most of us aren't afraid of occasionally stuffing ourselves to the brim with fried cheese curds, mashed potatoes, corn smothered in butter and salt, and huge slabs of meat.  We like our hearty meals.  Also, the Iowa State Fair will give you Type II diabetes, and we are 100% okay with that.

If you hate the idea of needing a motor vehicle, don't move to Iowa.  This sort of ties in with the first point in this blog post.  Iowa is largely rural.  Certain cities have great public transportation, but unless you plan to never go anywhere in the winter and/or never leave Ames, ever.... you're going to need some vroom-vroom.  In Iowa, distance is measured in hours instead of miles.  I live two hours from my hometown.  I live about an hour (if you include rush hour traffic) from the office.  I live about an hour away from most of my friends.  I live about half an hour from any decent restaurants and my obedience club.  But it's okay, really, because driving is all I've ever known.  Also, Iowa receives fuel subsidies so our gas is cheaper than in other states.  Remember that if you ever need to drive through Iowa to Minnesota or Illinois... tank up in Iowa!

If you constantly need the "best" of everything in order to feel fulfilled, don't move to Iowa.  I'm going to be honest... we don't have the "best" sushi or the "best" burgers.  We don't have the "best" state parks or the "best" shopping.  We don't have the "best" wineries or the "best" entertainment.  But we don't need the best in order to be happy.  We're content with what we've got, which still happens to be pretty damn good.  If you know where to look, you can find great food, great entertainment, and great hiking spots.  We do, however, have some of the best meat and regional produce you'll ever find!

If extreme winters scare you, don't move to Iowa.  We get snow.  Not Alaska-level snow, but still a decent amount. In addition to snow, we get a huge amount of ice.  Blizzards are becoming more common, and driving in a blizzard is life threatening... and trippy as hell. And the wind!  Oh god, the wind!  It starts up about mid-November and doesn't let up until mid-March.  With wind chill, the temperatures in Iowa can plummet to -20 or more below zero.  On those rare winter days when the sun makes an appearance, you'll find yourself risking frostbite just to soak in that glorious natural light.

If extreme summers scare you, don't move to Iowa.  Summers here are hot and sticky.  On some days the air is so thick with humidity that you can practically cut it with a knife.  Temperatures over 100 degrees are not uncommon... often with 80% (or higher) humidity.  We don't run our dogs when the sun is at its highest because it's downright unsafe.  I wait until nearly midnight to go running because any earlier and I'd probably risk heatstroke.  Luckily, there's this fantastic invention called air-conditioning.  Mmmmm, air conditioning.  Also, cherry limeade.

A few words about "Iowa Nice"... You may have heard that Iowans are ridiculously nice people.  I can't say for sure if we are or not.  I think as a rule, Iowans are politely pleasant.  We're not overly aggressive drivers, and we're courteous to strangers we encounter in public. We avoid confrontation, and stay out of other people's business.  If we see someone who needs help, we help them. If you run out of milk, a quick trip to your neighbor will yield a smile and enough cow-juice to finish whatever you're cooking.  If that's Iowa Nice, then sure... we're nice.  That's not to say we don't judge people, but we generally don't make our opinions known.  (Everyone is judgmental to some degree, and radically judgmental people are everywhere.  Don't even try to say that's not true.)

So, all you prospective Iowans... still with me?  Have I scared you off?  No?  Great!  If everything I've said up to this point hasn't made you swear off Iowa, then you're probably someone who would be quite content in this state.

The weather is challenging, but surviving it earns us a figurative badge of honor.  I think deep down, we Iowans are proud that we're tough enough to thrive in this climate.  (Somehow, hitting a deer with your car is also considered a badge of honor, or more accurately a rite of passage. I know, it's weird, just roll with it.)

We may not have mountains or oceans, but we can appreciate Iowa's own brand of beauty.  We get to enjoy endless prairie, thick forests, rolling hills, and secluded rivers.  Farmland itself has a classic beauty that you can't find anywhere else.

Iowa has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.  Iowa's cost of living and taxes are both fairly low.  Even without a college degree, it's not impossible to find a job that pays enough for you to own a car and rent a nice apartment... or even own a small house.  We have great public schools. We have great teachers.  We have great neighborhoods, and I've heard it's a great place to raise kids. (I wouldn't know... except that I was raised here and I think I turned out okay!)

It's easy to own animals here.  Even as a middle class woman in my late twenties, I own enough land to be able to own several large dogs.  I own my home, so I have room for the freezer needed to feed them a raw diet.  There is no way I would be able to live my current "dog enthusiast lifestyle" in a big city.

In short, Iowa rocks if this is the type of living you enjoy.  To made a broader statement... happiness that correlates to any place you call home is relative. No one state or way of life will make everyone happy, and it's pointless to assume otherwise.  In the same vein, it's ignorant to assume that someone who lives a lifestyle or in a state different than yours is in any way less of an awesome person for doing so.  I love Iowa.  My friends in the Twin Cities love Minnesota.  My friends in Boston love Massachussetts.  My friends in the Bay Area love California.

Live in the place that makes you happy, but don't let your happiness be slave to where live.

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