A few of you know that I’ve been in the process of house-hunting, and while technically I think something could still fall through, it looks as though I will be closing on a house here in Wichita soon.
As I’ve told a few friends this as we’ve been catching up recently, their response has all been a rendition of “Wow, you must really love it there, then.”
Which I do. I think for many people who don’t know me quite as well, or don’t really know what Kansas or Wichita are like — the thought that crossed their minds as I moved here is that I would enjoy it and then move on, as I have a tendency to do.
And maybe I will someday. But I moved here with the desire to find a new hometown, and with an inkling that this is what Wichita would be to me.
I have commitment issues in life, that’s no secret. I remember the knot in my stomach as I signed a 10 month lease in an apartment in California. “10 months?? Who knows if I’ll still want to be here in 10 months!” was the thought that crossed my mind.
But, while my spirit is still a wanderer, and I still want to travel and roam the world, my spirit likes roots. It’s like a wave that likes a shore to come back to. That’s what home has always been to me. The place for roots, the place to come back to for real life. And that’s what Wichita feels like to me. The first day I ever spent here was two and a half years ago, and I had the distinct, surprising thought: “This feels like a hometown.”
It still does. So I have no anxiety or qualms, no question of “Who knows where I’ll want to be in 10 months.” I want to be here. And that is an amazing feeling of peace and place that I’ve been lucky enough to find again.
With that, I’ve made a list of things I love about Wichita:
- It’s the friendliest place I’ve ever been.
- It has a great local arts scene. First fridays. Final Fridays. Second Saturdays. A cool art museum that’s free on saturdays. Tons of public art all around. Stores that sell art from local artists (Like the Workroom where even yours truly gets to sell her art). And so much more.
- They’re on that trendy food bandwagon. There are great cafes. Great coffee shops. Great food trucks.
- Better antique stores and garage sales/estate sales. No surprise, they’ve got better, older stuff here than California tends to have.
- HUGE skies. BEAUTIFUL skies. I was lucky enough to have gone to college in a place where I watched the sun set over the pacific ocean as I ate dinner every night. I grew up in a place with big skies where the sunsets were magazine worthy. But the sky here competes with the best of them.
- There’s water. Rivers, state park lakes, private lakes, fountains, ponds. Plenty of places to spend time on or around the water.
- There’s water. As in, there’s no drought. As in, it rains and lawns are naturally green.
- Trees. It’s a very treed city. Which I really like and appreciate. I think that’s part of why it reminds me a lot of Chico.
- Cost of living. I’m buying a house. I think that should speak for itself.
- Entertainment. Stuff happens here. Entertainers actually come through here. Including comedians, which is a big plus in my book.
- People know each other, and run into each other, even though it’s a city of approx 400,000 people. I had only been here a week the first time I ran into someone I knew.
- Outside spaces. There are beautiful (and surprisingly really clean) paths along the river for biking/running/walking. There are tons of random tree, grass, and water type parks as well as urban park places with seating and fountains, etc. There’s a beautiful disc golf course that I frequent regularly. Wichita rocks the outside spaces.
- I know my neighbors at the house I’ve lived in since moving here. Partly because their dogs are the worst and so I’ve gone over to ask them to do something about it several times. And partly because I slack line in the front yard and probably call too much attention to myself. But partly because it’s that kind of culture. I met a lady down the way the other day when I went to a garage sale a block up and she came up to me, asking, “are you the girl that does the tight-rope walking?” I like her.
- Location location location. Wichita is so central. You can get to Oklahoma City, or Kansas City in a couple of hours. Dallas is only a little further. And it’s only a 7 hour drive to Denver.
- They have GREAT Mexican food. Seriously.
- In general, getting hit on here has been a much more gentlemanly/proper experience and a much less creepy/degrading one than anywhere else. Though the cat-callers are still out there.
- Again, people are so friendly and kind. Several of my friends here are my friends because I met them and they said, “Do you want to come over to my house tonight at 8:30?” or “I’m going to yoga tonight if you want to join” or “I’m getting married this saturday, what are you doing then? Want to come? Want to come to my bachelorette party thursday?” or “I want to be friends with you. Want to hang out this afternoon?”
- It feels like a hometown.
Dear Wichita, it’s earlier than I would usually feel this or say this to anyone, but, I love you.
Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.
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