My Hometown Sucks, Place, and Shared Sameness

Seems where we’re from matters more than we care to admit.

A person’s emotional connection to the places they inhabit is a beginning point for an interesting conversation. Whether or not someone openly discusses their thoughts about where they live or are from, they are likely to have very strong feelings rooted in a sense of place. What is most interesting, perhaps, is the conversations which ensue when someone’s personal connection to place is challenged by the opinions and perspectives of others. Whether it be the prevailing discourse at a given moment in history that does not align with our personal values, or the creation and wearing of place-based wares by those with a differing perspective on where they are from; what sparks conversations about place can be both large and small.

And boy, do we need these conversations, now more than ever.

“Where some see irony, others see disdain. Many don’t know what to make of it at all 🤔. Seems where we’re from matters more than we care to admit.”

— James Kingsley

In the increasingly global world, our connections to local can be easily loosened or completely lost. With the Gig Economy providing work for Mrs. Small Town North America in a city oceans away, our work, money and connections to one another are leaving the locations we have the closest physical connections to. Moreover, while connecting with others from afar over digital platforms provides ample opportunity to stay in touch with old friends and to find new individuals to collaborate with whom are not influenced by the same day-to-day input we have in our hometown, what is missing and on the decline are the connections we have with those we share space with.

When my friend and collaborator, James Kingsley, first shared My Hometown Sucks it was an instant conversation starter:

Whether we found ourselves to be from the same place or not, or living in the same locale now, those we shared the tagline with found immediate opportunities to share their connections to place. Why they love where they live, or rants about the embedded disdain which exists in our culture to immediately turn up our noses at the mention of certain places.

Here is the thing though—whether your hometown actually sucks is not the point.

What is important are the feelings My Hometown Sucks conjures up that probably are not shared often enough with others. What is important are the discussions about what make great places standout from mediocre spaces. What is important is that we identify our individual connections to place, our shared understanding of the value of where we choose to live, and the fact that we all interpret where we are from, and where we are, just a bit differently.

I am from London, Ontario, Canada. The Forest City. And, My Hometown Sucks.

Or does it?

Have a discussion long enough with me and you will quickly realize that I love my hometown, and where I currently live—they are one in the same. I do not always love this place. Sometimes I just like it, and other times I hate specific elements of it. But does it suck?

Yes. And, no.

I hear on a daily basis that #ldnont sucks:

Visitors from afar. Visitors from Toronto. Students from larger cities. Students from smaller towns. Older generations that never left the city. Older generations who reminisce about what the city was once like.

The list goes on-and-on.

So, clearly, My Hometown Sucks—if I listen to others.

But here’s the thing:

They are not right. They are also not wrong at all.

The notion of place—the locations we endow with meaning—is a highly individualized concept. What constitutes a place may very well be the understanding an individual has of the spaces they interact with, and the meaning they can pull out and interpret from the experiences and relationships they foster within a given space.

“…what folly it is to take any thing for granted without examining it skeptically.”

— Jane Jacobs

There is no right or wrong way to interpret a place. What is important though, is that we recognize our connections to and interpretation of the places we are from, and the locations where we live. It is important we identify the sameness we share with others in relation to place, and the differences in opinions we hold which spark necessary conversations. Only through dialogue can we improve our awareness of, and connection to, both the places we share and the relationships we have with one another.

James, the aforementioned friend and collaborator who came up with the My Hometown Sucks idea that I helped to push out the door, may have said it best in his recent Instagram post:

via instagram

For the past three years I have focused my time, energy, and efforts on exploring the concept of place, specifically how it shapes learning, leadership & civic life. Now that my research has concluded, I am interested in continuing the conversation surrounding place and the connection we have to it, as individuals and community.

My Hometown Sucks is a starting point ripe for such discussions.