I have a complicated relationship with Missouri. 

On the one hand, it’s the worst. They don’t call it misery for nothing. I grew up in Illinois, and my whole life Missouri was like the boring little booger to the south; it was a less exciting version of Illinois. The only good part as far as I knew was St. Louis.

Then I went to college in Missouri. 

My dad found Missouri State online because it has a Global Studies major, which I wanted to do at the time. We went and visited, and I liked the university so much I went back and visited again. I didn’t end up as a Global Studies major but I loved the school and it was super cheap so I went anyway. 

During my four years in Missouri, I became well-acquainted with the state. The only good parts of the whole state are Kansas City and St. Louis – and maybe Columbia but I never went there so I wouldn’t know – and the people you meet from each of those cities are conviced they’re the greatest cities on earth. Kansas City and St. Louis are both pretty cool…but they’re still in Missouri. And Missouri is still the worst. Missouri also has a bit of an identity crisis. It’s technically part of the Midwest, but also seems a bit like the South. It’s not really sure what its brand is. I never planned to stay in Missouri, and was a bit relieved when I got to leave. 

On the other hand, Missouri was a very meaningful place for me. I had some of the most important experiences of my life at college, as one does. I met my best friends in Missouri, I dated my first boyfriend in Missouri, I lived in my first house in Missouri, I got my first job in Missouri, I came out of my shell and made more friends and more met people than I ever have in Missouri. I became an adult in Missouri. I owe that state a lot, because without Missouri I wouldn’t have become the person I am today.

Some of my friends are still in Missouri, and they are the only reason I ever go back. And I know once they leave, I will never return there. I went to Missouri a few weeks ago, to go hiking with my friends. As I crossed the state line I thought, “Here I am again, Missouri, you son of a bitch. Just you wait, because pretty soon you won’t be seeing me anymore.” But then I nodded, out of respect, to Missouri. 

I can dislike Missouri because I spent a lot of time there and I know what it’s like. I still have to respect Missouri, though, because it gave me some of the most important people and experiences in my life. I am grateful to Missouri. As long as it doesn’t make me come back to it, I will still hold Missouri in a sort of measured deference, and treat it with the civility I owe it.