Ohio gets a bad wrap as far as states are concerned because we have Winter and some of our cities are less than glamorous. Never-mind the low cost of living, the numerous Huff-Po lists where three of our biggest cities rank as, “best places to get a city living experience without the city price-tag,” and our pull in presidential elections, haters will always find a reason to put us down. After helping to bring Cleveland its first national championship in 52 years, Lebron James stated to reporters, “in Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned.” This sums up why all my friends in Cleveland had the day off to celebrate a sports’ team win; this is why Ohio is so thoroughly, profoundly, excellent. In a state full of disappointment, heartache, and struggle, you can find some of the kindest, smartest, most dedicated individuals carving their mark into a stubborn piece of rubber.
Growing up in the Rust Belt, devastated industry was the distant backdrop to a childhood full of zippers, rubber tires, and a vibrant National Park. East Akron – home of LeBron – was the butt of ignorant school jokes and the cautionary tale of worried parents. West Akron was a field trip destination with the historic homes of rubber tycoons. As a high school student I listened to various adults whine about the snow or the rain or the sleet or the slush or the heat or the humidity. When I was in undergrad the now infamous “Hastily made Cleveland Tourism Video” went viral, boasting claims that, “we’re not Detroit!” Today, outsiders still call Cleveland, “the mistake on the lake.” Nevertheless, I grew up with a fierce loyalty to Northeast Ohio and its gritty allure.
Cleveland has a stupendous orchestra – ranked #8 in the world – to pair with its incredible art museum, ranked on various lists as one of the best in the country. The city on the lake has a vibrant, affordable (by national standards) Downtown with thriving boutique neighborhoods surrounding the congested city. Do you need to go for a hike? The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is only a 20 minute drive. Sure, the river may have caught on fire once, but as industrious Ohioans, we reclaimed that narrative and turned it into a favorite pastime. Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Burning River Pale Ale has been a World Beer Champion since 1995.
Diversity of people and pastimes: it’s what makes Ohio such a wonderful place to live. From rolling fields and dense forests, to congested cities and sprawling suburbs, Ohio has it all. Recently, I relocated from my beloved NEO to central Ohio. At first, I was wary. Columbus isn’t the rust belt. Columbus hasn’t struggled the way Cleveland or Akron has. Columbus is all farms, one of the nation’s largest Universities and extensive high-way systems, I thought. What I’ve discovered, however, is that while Columbus certainly lacks some of NEO’s grit, she makes up for it with craft beer, a convenient downtown, and jobs. Columbus is a perfect snapshot of Ohio: big city with all your amenities, theaters, museums, sports, restaurants, and ten minutes away by car? Cows.
Regardless of the demographic, Ohioans share a midwestern ethos: nothing is given. Even those of us who have had opportunities handed to us through family and circumstance, we don’t take our blessings for granted. In my experience midwesterners are respectful of other people – except at OSU or Browns games. We respect those who are working terribly unglamorous jobs; most Ohioans have a not-too-distance relative who worked in the coal mines, steel mills, oil refineries or auto factories. Ohioans value hard work, determination and creativity.
Ohio isn’t perfect and many national and worldwide issues are manifest in our humble state. Still, there’s no place I’d rather call home. To the people who say, “hah, Ohio is just a bunch of cornfields,” I say, “actually, our biggest crop is soybeans.”