Thursday, October 16, 2014

Small Town

"I was born in a small town," but that's the only similarity that John Cougar Mellencamp and I have.  I high tailed it out of that town at the ripe age of 17, and I have no desire to ever reside there again.  It's not that I dislike the town or the people that continue to call it home, but small town living isn't for everyone.  It sure as hell isn't for me.

I had a memorable childhood which consisted of countless sleepovers, riding bikes around town, prank calling boys, and constantly seeking one adventure after another.  I was out the door after breakfast and back in just before dark.  My childhood was amazing.  My teen years, not so much.

As a teen living in a town that shuts down at 8:00 p.m., I was forced to resort to any means necessary in order to entertain myself.  I was restless and bored which led to poor life choices, damaged friendships, and a reputation that I wasn't proud of. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't a trouble maker or a juvenile delinquent.  I was a good girl who came from a loving home and went to church every Sunday.  I just couldn't wait to escape that small town and all of the drama that encompassed it.

The summer after graduation felt never ending, which prompted me to leave for college as soon as the dorms opened.  Upon arriving, I didn't take into account the fact that I only knew a handful of people at the University and none of them lived remotely close to me. Classes hadn't even begun and I found myself so lonely I couldn't stand it.   I called my mom sobbing every day because I was absolutely miserable.  I thought I had made the wrong choice, and I wasn't sure I was strong enough to make it on my own. I didn't miss my hometown, but I missed its familiarity. I missed my family and the comfort that came from living in a small town. It's hard to walk down the halls of a dorm room and not know a single person or eat every meal by yourself in a cafeteria full of strangers.  It's even harder going days on end without seeing a single person you know. My mom assured me that things would get better, and she was right. Eventually, I made friends.  One by one, little by little. And the phone calls to my mom became less and less. I finally began to feel like I wasn't just getting by, but I was building a life for myself.

Looking back 12 years later, it turns out that moving away and starting a new life outside of those city limits was the best thing that ever happened to me.  It forced me to step out of my comfort zone on multiple occasions, to befriend people I never thought I would, and to challenge myself with new experiences (some of which changed my world forever). My eyes had been opened to endless possibilities, and there was no way I could go back to the life I had previously known.

And while this path that I have chosen suits me to a T, my sister is just the opposite.  She has created a life in that small town that she absolutely loves. She works at a local business, her children go to the same school we went to, and everyone knows her by name.  Even though we come from the same upbringing, we are complete opposites, which just goes to show that what works for one person doesn't always work for another.  And that's okay.  I've learned that you have to find what works for you.  The drama and hardships will follow you wherever you go (unfortunately, those are just a part of life), but you can choose how you handle them. Where you decide to live doesn't really matter, because if you're happy and surrounded by the people that you love, you will be always feel at home.

Photo courtesy of Crystal Arellano Photography. You can check out the rest of her beautiful work here