I heart Podunk, Ohio

Sarah Baldwin

This weekend, I decided to take a break from my usual routine of round-the-clock studying in my bachelorette pad in Stow and go home to spend time with my family.

All day at work on Friday, I kept looking at the clock in anticipation of when I could run to the parking lot, get in my car and speed down the expressway to my little black and white dog as well as a couch that never fails to be sleep-inducing. Like Dorothy said, there really is no place like home.

When I was growing up, I hated where my family lived. My hometown is small, and everyone knows everyone’s business. My hometown area has its share of hillbillies and trailer parks with people who think Canton is a big city; though it also has beautiful parks, new housing developments and a thriving downtown. Friday night football is everything to many locals, and I vividly recall being taunted as a “foot fairy” for playing soccer in high school. To be honest, I thought my home town was an ugly little burg, and I planned to leave at the first moment I could.

Which, to a degree, I did.

I came to Kent State for college and there were all kinds of new people and new things to do. I tried vegan food, saw a drag show and got teased for using the phrase, “slower than molasses in January.” It was a beautiful time in my life, and I learned so many things.

Then, after my time in Kent, I lived in Tucson, Ariz. It’s almost always hot, the buildings are often fuchsia and lime green, and the art scene is spectacular. I stayed in the most heavily Latino-populated part of town — South Tucson. I was in the minority there, and it was truly an eye-opening experience for me. I saw a great deal of beauty in Tucson and will never forget my experiences in the desert city (nor my road trips out and back with my “Mad Max” brother Sam, but dear readers, that’s a book for another day).

I have traveled to a third-world country where the gorgeous landscape was marked only by the desperation and poverty of its inhabitants. I’ll never forget the strength of the emotions I had while I was there — the fear, the anxiety, but most of all, the oppressive desire to be back in my little Podunk town in Ohio.

After going to all those places, I finally understood the maxim, “Home is where the heart is.” Yes, my hometown has its problems, but so does any place where people live. When I was younger, I couldn’t see past these negative aspects, but now that I am (sort of) an adult, I realize that I grew up in a breathtakingly beautiful place.

Yes, everyone knows your business, but often that’s just because they happen to care about you. There are the rabid football fans, but then there is also a slower pace and a respect for tradition and family values that you don’t often see in bigger towns. And truthfully, some of the nicest people I know are hillbillies.

As far as I’m concerned, you can keep New York City and Paris — give me Small Town, Ohio any day.

Sarah Baldwin is a graduate public relations student and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].