Thursday, February 23, 2012

I Am a Nevadan?

I have lived in Las Vegas for nearly 18 years. I had to count on my fingers to figure it out, and I have to say that I’m overwhelmed at the idea of having lived here longer than anywhere else during my life. Wow.

So does that mean I am a Nevadan? And what is that exactly? Other states have it easier. If someone says they’re a Texan, you immediately get a mental image of their heritage, of their history of being loud and proud – I picture my Uncle Ed with his big smile, big belt buckle and cowboy boots. Texan is understood.

Another population that clearly states their heritage are New Yorkers. Smart, in-your-face, confident; those people are New Yorkers and proud of it. New Yorker implies an identity like no other.

Some states have their own labels for their residents – ones more creative than simply adding an “n” to the end of the state like Californians. I grew up in Indiana and was therefore a Hoosier. And what are Hoosiers? Pure Midwesterners, salt of the earth people. But having an unusual name like “Hoosier” gave us a bit of mystery. Or an oddity.

For Christmas our son received a cheese head hat from our relatives in Wisconsin. Of course George had to try it on, too. I think it’s neat that the single silly term "Cheese Head" can evoke the silliness and enthusiasm of a whole state. It must be fun to live in Wisconsin.

But, Nevadan? What are we exactly? If it is a label that I now have to claim, I want to know. The word itself conjures up images of dusty desert and cowboys. Am I part of that now?

This state is full of transients, people who come and work and move on - people who do not get to know their neighbors because the stop is temporary. Those are not Nevadans. Those of us who stay are those who moved West, much like those pioneers of long ago. We packed up our homes, got an itch to see what was beyond that next mountain, and took off. That’s what I did eighteen years ago, when I packed up my car and drove here by myself. I was adventurous. I was an explorer. I needed to head West.

If that is the definition I have come to, I will claim Nevadan. And I will befriend those who have also decided to make this home. I will learn to love this dusty, expansive, wild, sun-filled place. It’s time to claim my new state.