What is the #Midwessay? What is the Midwest? What are the characteristics, if any, of the #Midwessay (the Midwest essay)? What gathers us together? What pulls us apart? Springing from a twitter conversation, we started asking writers and readers what they imagine (or would like to reimagine) as the Midwest and the Midwessay. The #Midwessay is a series of reports from the Midwest (whatever that is) by and/or about Midwestern essay and essayists (whatever those are). Essay Daily will be publishing these, sorted (loosely) by state, in February 2021 and beyond. These #Midwessays will be collected here and on a separate site at a later date. If you'd like to submit a report / essay, send it our way. Details and coordinators for each state are listed here. You can also ping Ander (link at the upper right) if we don't list a coordinator yet for your state. —The Editors
Saturday, June 26, 2021
The #Midwessay: Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter, State Lines
My life seems spent straddling lines. Identities pushing back-and-forth against one another. Since childhood, I’ve played hop-scotch between Nebraska and Iowa. A revolving door keeping me circling in the heart of the Heartland.
During long car rides across the flat expanse of Nebraska, I tried to find its beauty. Eventually, my eyes wandered towards the night sky, dazzled by twinkling stars. My dreams soared beyond the Midwest atmosphere.
Some invisible barrier keeps me rooted here. The romanticism of the Midwest alludes me. I feel more myself in New York City or Boston or Portland. Yet, when I run for these borders, a bungee cord springs me back.
I long to be the western meadow lark and find my voice. I want to discover the beauty of cornfields. But I’m out of place here. I feel invisible here.
I’m now raising my kids in Iowa. We frequently stumble across Confederate flags and enter rideshares blasting conservative radio. My husband is a corn-fed, Hawkeye fan, born and raised. But I’m uncomfortable here, always on guard, wary.
This is not home, and yet it is. I find myself stuffing more and more of me deep down, trying to conform. But I’ve railed against conformity my entire life. I find myself wondering how I raise two boys to embrace this simple beauty but to live completely as themselves. For them to succeed where I have failed. For them to not feel off balanced but to have their feet firmly planted.
For me, living in the Midwest means constantly pushing against the stream of conformity. I slip what silver linings I can find into cupped hands. Less pollution, lower cost of living, close to family… Trying to create a pocket for my family where I can breathe, feel like me. And ensuring my kids can feel at home wherever they are.
Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter (she/hers) is a mom and writer from Omaha, Nebraska but recently relocated to Urbandale, IA. When she’s not chasing children, picking up messes or reorganizing the house, she enjoys yoga or reading to relax with a peppermint latte. She's blind and frequently writes about disability.
She's a freelance marketer. Her work has appeared in the Brevity blog, The Omaha World Herald, 13th Floor, Misbehaving Nebraskans, Hippocampus, Emerging Nebraska Writers, and Random Sample Review. Her essay “The Body” was a McKenna Fellowship finalist, and her essay “Imperfection” was a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee.