THE BLOG
06/04/2014 08:20 am ET Updated Aug 04, 2014

Love Letters: Madison, WI

Kassia Binkowski grew up in Madison, WI and traveled her way around the world to Boulder, CO which she now calls home. Nestled against the Rocky Mountains, Kassia is the Founder & Creative Director of One Thousand Design, a creative studio for social impact organizations.

I grew up in a magic town, full to the brim with magic people. I knew no fear. No sadness. No loss.

On the shores of a lake, in the sweet humid air of a mid-western life I was raised to believe anything was possible. I was loved by no fewer than a few dozen people and spent my childhood floating seamlessly between the laps of family and friends and friends who became family. On boats and fields we learned to play. At a Catholic school I was taught to pray. In the lawn at night, we caught fire flies, and fell asleep to the sounds of music drifting across the lake.

In a small town with even smaller circles, names were known and doors were opened. The local columnist was a friend's father, the governor a neighbor, the teacher a friend.

The most magical of all gifts, however--that which I so desperately strive to recreate--is the sense of belonging I have to this city and its people. Nowhere else is mine the way those homes have always been. No doors propped so perpetually open, no isthmuses idly beckoning me back.

An almost-adult, I have traveled the world looking for the magic I knew as a child. I've ridden on the backs of camels into wide oceans of sand, I've walked barefoot down red dirt roads, I've stood at the tops of some wickedly-tall peaks, and dipped my toes into jungle waters. In only the most exotic locations, those most far-flung from anything familiar I've glimpsed the magic.

To belong somewhere is to see in a place a reflection of one's self; that is no small thing. I have walked away with wild abandon from a town to which I will always belong, and been lucky enough to discover another place which resonates with my soul. Now, straddled somewhere between cow-strewn plains and white craggy mountains I am, finally, home.

I'm older now, and more acutely aware than ever before of how lucky I was to know this place. Some days it seems like I've strayed irreparably far from where I come from. I can only daydream of waking up to fresh water. I am suffocated by the soaking-wet air that once sustained me. I don't pray anymore, but I still believe. In magic.

Someday I hope to give that same security and stability to my own children. Wherever in the world I put down roots, I want them to know the belonging that I've come to know from a city in which I no longer live. I want to offer them childhoods chock-full of fireflies and family and wide open horizons. I want them to feel at home in the houses of neighbors, to have a deep network of lifelong friendships, to live in a place where progress is constantly being made and beauty is tangible and magic is real.

My childhood in Madison, WI was nothing short of magical. It launched me into a world of possibility and for a while I walked away without ever looking back. But home is home. We don't get to choose where we come from, only thank our lucky stars that it is there to go back to. I, for one, always will.

For the Mad City from one of its wild-eyed daughters, thank you.