I did some volunteering the last couple of days, and while we were waiting for the classes of kids to get off the bus and up to our spot on the trail, us guides had a chance to chat for a bit. The others knew I was from Michigan, but I did my usual thing when people start mentioning Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor.

“I’m from the Upper Peninsula,” I say as patiently as I can. “It’s like Wisconsin North.”

Many people, it turns out, think that’s part of Canada or something. But one of the guides, one I’ve gotten to know a bit, responded differently.

“That explains a lot,” she said. “Everyone I’ve met from up there is kind of unique, their own person.”

I’ve lived here in Nevada for nearly five months now, and I’m not nearly as expressive as I was back in Michigan. For the longest time I was simply assuming I was more immersed in the community in Michigan—which is true, but now I don’t think that’s the whole story.

Where I live here in rural Nevada is more conformist than where I lived before, and my fellow guide really nailed that. It really wasn’t a big deal to be different back in the UP, especially with it being a college town.

Here? No, I won’t paint my fingernails yet. Maybe I’ll get that comfortable. Maybe I can be that much my own person.

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