Hometown to Hollywood: Why I Love Milwaukee
When you live in Los Angeles like I do, it’s very easy to lose touch with your roots. In this city, my story isn’t unique – I'm one of the thousands who came here from somewhere else to pursue a different life. I'm what the locals commonly refer to as a “transplant.”
Transplants sometimes find themselves back in their home states within 6 months; most affairs with the City of Angels doomed to split by the pressure of too many failed acting auditions or the ever-rising rent prices. And while I consider myself lucky to have survived 4 years and counting in this cut-throat land of palm trees and Botox, I have a confession to make: it doesn't fill my heart the way my hometown always will.
Let me explain...
I'm from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Filled with breweries and old factories, Milwaukee is a city with some pretty dope history: the first Harley Davidson motorcycle was built there as well as the first type-writer. Lots of your favorite beer comes from Milwaukee, and so do Heather Graham and Gene Wilder. Milwaukee is Midwest charm in its truest form. People are friendly and hold doors open for each other. Milwaukee is cheese curds and beer, football and bar dice.
Growing up, my mother moved us further and further into the suburbs every few years – a mistaken, but genuine, attempt to keep us ever more safe and stable. Nevertheless, I had fun as a child. I built forts in the woods and played “Ghosts in the Graveyard” before the street lights light up, signaling my curfew. I caught frogs in a creek and jarred fireflies with my older sister late into the sticky summer nights. In winter, we played in the snow (although it was never something I enjoyed).
Living in Milwaukee as a young 20-something-year-old was also fun. Unfortunately, however, it was the type of fun I didn't always remember. I spent most of my time working at college bars around town. And when I wasn't working at them, I was drinking at them. If you've ever been to Milwaukee, you know it’s a pretty Booze-y place.
Not everyone got wrapped up in that lifestyle. I watched my high school peers drop off, getting married and having kids by the ripe age of 23.
It’s better that I left Milwaukee because looking back now, I realize I didn't appreciate the many gems and gifts the city had to offer. Instead, I was in search of new boys and new bars to become a regular at. It wasn't until recently that, through the stroke of God and finding sobriety, I began to really question my origin.
Where did I come from?
As I sifted through missed opportunities and resentments... I came to understand one inescapable idea to be true: I had a deep, deep love for Milwaukee.
Sure, it was the stage for many mess-ups and drunken shenanigans during my formative years.... but it was also a lot of other things too. It’s the city where my Aunts gallivanted together in the 80's sporting sequined shoulder pads and peep toe pumps. It's where my Mom drove her bright red firebird around, where she and my dad spent many nights dancing to Mexican music, young and totally in love.
Milwaukee is where I come from – and with self-condemnation or not, it will always be a part of my story. As I learn to love myself more and forgive my mistakes, I begin to love ALL parts of my story, even the dark parts. I used to think I “ran away” from my hometown, but I now understand it was simply the Universe better situating me to find health and happiness in a new place. Sometimes life reroutes us in unexpected ways, but I do believe there is a light that exists at the end of the tunnel for all of us.
Milwaukee will forever stay alive through my long “A” accent, the way my face lights up when anyone talks football (GO PACKERS!), and the disdain I feel when people claim California cows are the happiest. I would like to go on the record and say: the happiest cows live in Wisconsin!
By: Raquel Reyes
Raquel Reyes is a Writer, Reiki Healer, and Spiritual Enthusiast. She currently teaches Writing Workshops for Women and resides in Los Angeles. In her spare time, you can find her practicing yoga, enjoying foodie life, or hiking with her dogs, Abby & Morgan.