I’ve tried to escape to Kansas several times in the past eight years.
Let me start by saying I left the state in 2005 as an unwilling 14-year-old and came back last July. I spent the last eight years in Nebraska, where I went to high school and college.
Nebraska is a fine place.
However, I have this to say to fellow reporter and Nebraskan Kristina Jackson: Kansas is better.
Nebraska is decent.
It just wasn’t where my people were, or my heritage or my home.
I’m speaking about this experience because of Kansas’ recent birthday. In a way, it reminded me of how grateful I am to be here.
ONCE I moved to Nebraska, I led a life in two states.
I was afraid of losing my good friends and precious time with my grandparents in Kansas, so I spent all the time I could my native state.
On weekdays I did kid stuff in high school but at least once, if not twice every month, I traveled two and a half hours from Holdrege, Neb., to my hometown in Belleville on weekends to see my loved ones.
Every time I crossed the border going south, I immediately felt a sense of relief. I was home.
I could manage living in Nebraska, but it just wasn’t where I was supposed to be.
This belief was perpetuated irrationally by the fact that the day I moved to Nebraska, it poured down rain. I was sure it was a bad omen.
Superficially, my loyalty to Kansas was also compromised because the two states were engaged in slight competition, especially since Nebraska was still a part of the Big 12.
I wasn’t adjusting.
SO MY first escape attempt happened when I was 16.
I explored the prospect of living with my father in Belleville, but he ended up moving to Salina a year later.
The opportunity came again to go back south when I was ready for college. Escape attempt number two.
I was ecstatic when I found out I could even nab in-state tuition for Kansas schools because of my dad’s residency, but for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to go back.
It was just practical to stay a little further north.
I thought of all the paperwork I would have to do for in-state tuition.
Escape attempt number three came at the end of my sophomore year at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, when I was looking through Facebook photos of a cousin – who seemed to be having a lot of fun at the University of Kansas.
AND I thought: “That’s where I’m supposed to be!”
The anguish really got to me at that point.
I went so far as to apply to KU at the end of my sophomore year, still qualifying for in-state tuition as an extra incentive.
Not practical. Not practical at all.
It would add another year to my education, and I wasn’t willing to live in college poverty that much longer.
Finally, when I was ready to graduate I would have the opportunity again to go back.
I needed my family. I needed the Jayhawks and Wildcats. I needed the sunflower to be my state flower once again.
I’ve been here now for six months and since then, I’ve been making up for lost time.
IT’S BEEN fun, and I’m assured that coming back was the right thing for me to do.
Adjusting to living back home has been interesting, though.
It took me a few months to reacclimatize myself to Kansas because though the two states are pretty similar, there are a few differences.
For one thing, I remain confused about the Kansas Legislature because of its House and Senate.
Nebraska has a unicameral legislature—the odd one out in the whole nation – and now that I’m back, I feel like there are too many Kansas politicians to keep in my sights.
It’s also odd when I run into people who know my family or dead ancestors. That doesn’t happen when you live away from a place your family inhabited for four-plus generations.
After eight long years and three escape attempts, it’s good to be home.