“Two stops,” I blurted to the driver, barely looking up from my phone as I climbed into his car and tap-tap-tapped away, wading through an endless stream of e-mail as I left work. Absurdly late for my dog’s vet appointment, I reluctantly dropped $30 on a ride-share service and prayed we’d beat the wild, winding Boston traffic.

“I miss Minneapolis,” I thought.

The three-word sentiment echoed in my head, clunky and unexpected. I had returned, happily, to Boston, where I’d longed to be during my year and a half in Minneapolis. I thought I’d left the Midwest behind, but it was lingering within me. I faced the (admittedly First World) problem of both places vying for real estate in my heart.

I moved to the Twin Cities in the fall of 2014 after accepting a fantastic, creative job (at this very newspaper, in fact). I also landed an apartment in northeast Minneapolis that seemed built just for me.

I hauled my Minnesota grandfather’s bookshelf into the living room and hung Boston memorabilia on the walls.

A born-and-raised Hoosier, I was somewhat hesitant to return to the sleepy Midwest and its familiar comforts. But I unpacked my casserole (pardon me — hot dish) pans and decided to give this place a chance.

I was greeted, go figure, by a heap of snow.

But I soon found glimmers of light in the winter darkness: a Lizzo show, recreational sports leagues, perfectly hoppy beer and savory Tater Tots. Spring arrived, then summer. I fell in, out and back into love. I got fit with my co-workers during midday runs along the Mississippi River.

Minneapolis became my home.

Tears in the bathroom

But as time passed, my Midwestern reverie dimmed. Inside bathroom stalls, I wiped away tears. I checked flight prices, job boards and housing prices in faraway cities. My life in Minneapolis always felt transitional, like a rest stop on a long highway. With pangs of guilt, I started planning my eastward exit sooner than I expected.

I pulled the Red Sox hat out of my closet.

I longed for Boston because it was older, louder and multicolored in ways the Midwest wasn’t. I was hungry for more than Minneapolis could deliver — lobster rolls, not lutefisk. I needed to hear “That sucks” not “Well, that’s … different.”

I wanted my external scenery to reflect my complicated internal state. As I waded through wobbly relationships and professional stress and other realities of growing up, I longed for a place with war history and blaring car horns right alongside hopeful students and symphonies.

Back to Boston

Chasing challenge over comfort, I hauled my Minnesotan grandfather’s bookshelf up three flights of creaky stairs to my new Boston apartment this May. I hung Minneapolis memorabilia on the walls. I created a new home, but I was unsettled by fond memories of the last one.

Cue up “Big Yellow Taxi” on the mental jukebox: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”

I had subscribed to the foolish notion that life’s big transitions can be emotionally seamless. I thought, if we only listen closely to the universe, we can make the “right” decisions and, step by step, become who we truly are. If we get it right, we won’t feel sad or strange or ever meander back through our pasts to wonder if we picked the right road.

But that sadness is important, even necessary. We don’t get to fast-forward through episodes of uncertainty. And occasionally, we rerun the archives, looking for themes to quell our fears and guide the next big decision.

A quote from Argentine short-story writer Jorge Luis Borges has guided me through the transience of my 20s: “I’m not sure that I exist, actually. I am all the writers that I have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I have loved; all the cities I have visited.”

I don’t just miss Minneapolis; I am Minneapolis, just as I am every other city I’ve lived in. I can love cities while living outside their borders, even when I occasionally ache for the parts of myself I left along the way.

I find that nostalgia reassuring now. I didn’t fail to appreciate Minneapolis; I loved it enough to keep it with me. I packed it up in my bags and threw it in the trunk of a cab, cruising forward down the road.


Emily Theis is a designer, illustrator and digital producer in Boston, and a proud former Star Tribune print designer. Find her on twitter or instagram: @the_is. Or follow her dog on instagram: @noodle_pup.

ABOUT 10,000 Takes: 10,000 Takes features first-person essays about life in the North Star State. Read more at startribune.com/10000takes.