Are You There NY? It’s me, Ryan.

Something has bothered me for the last few weeks. At first, it bothered me so much that I could barely even think about it. I’m past that point. Now, I wish I had the space, time and resources to work on it more, because a large part of me feels like there’s a life’s work buried somewhere in here. Thank god I’m still young and sort of a punk at heart.

Needless to say, whether by age, circumstance or both, I don’t quite have what I need to tackle this full-time. But just as needless to say, it’s not the sort of thing that can wait. I tried waiting. It wouldn’t let me. It’s far too precious a thing to let myself sit here, bothered, until I figure out the solution. I’ve got to start living the message now. But before we get there, you might want to know where we’re starting (yes, you’re welcome on this journey):

Too many New Yorkers think North Carolina is a destination, some cute little place they can visit when they’ve watched enough HGTV, feel like rustic-industrial-farmhouse-chic sounds sexy, and can no longer contain their desire to go see it for themselves. Because, like RTP is so hot right now. And because OMG that craft beer scene in Asheville! And then there’s the latest, middle-aged iteration: thinking of retiring there because it’s so cheap!

No. Just no. You know what’s cheap? Having your culture reduced to listicles in travel magazines, its value reduced to savings boasted by privileged people acquiring not their first but their second “vacation” homes in my home state. That’s what’s cheap.

I recognize that I came to New York from North Carolina. I recognize the messiness that creates for my position. But you know what? Humans, like the places they are from, are complex – more than one factor contributes to the reality that I’m here (and that, by extension, I am not there). I assure you, these are all conscious, complex choices.

And at the same time…

Sometimes I just want to go home. Sometimes I want to go home and remember how things used to be, before my state and everything it genuinely offers became something that feels bespoke to you. No, sugar, that “for me?” feeling you noticed comes from the warmth, hospitality, authenticity, and dare I say, manners, with which we North Carolinians order our lives (for better and for worse). Something that can’t be bought, or appropriated, or confined to whatever half-baked idea currently graces your cosmopolitan fancy.

No one made North Carolina for you or in your image, my friends from north of the Line. Cicadas don’t chirp in the summer for you. The tobacco doesn’t smell sweet, the potatoes don’t grow orange, the corn doesn’t grow tall for you. The roads aren’t wide and the hills aren’t rolling for you. The BBQ doesn’t come in different styles for you. And when our cities explode with more people like you, this is also not just because of you. Just as it is not because of me.

North Carolina is not for sale. It is a home. It is my home. So Dear God, New York, while you’re visiting my home, remember it’s not another something to create in your image. Not just because I don’t want things to change. But because, when one day you grow tired of what you created here too, you’ll move on to the next GREAT FIND, and leave me homeless in your wake. Dear God, New York, is New York no longer enough?

Ryan Vale McGonigle

Comment on the Featured Image: I’d tell you where this slice of heaven is, but then it might get overrun.  For those who like a challenge, see if you can go find it! Even if you don’t, I guarantee you’ll find another reason why North Carolina can’t just become New York South.

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