Growing up in a small town isn't everyone's dream, and it wasn't necessarily mine either, but it was my reality. I come from a town where everyone knows everyone, whether you know them personally or through a mutual friend. No trip to the grocery store is complete without running into your neighbor or someone you know from high school. I learned the "who's who" of the town at a young age, and knew that I would be surrounded by those people while I was growing up, whether I liked them or not.
As a teenager in high school, I didn't particularly care for the town I lived in and I couldn't wait to escape to college. I didn't like the fact that other people I rarely associated with probably knew everything about my personal life. I didn't appreciate when parents would gossip about their kids or their kid's friends, nor did I love when I or anyone I was close with became the center talking point. I felt trapped in my negative thoughts and desperately longed after the idea of leaving.
When it was finally time for me to pack up and move away, I felt an overwhelming amount of sadness to leave.
But as time passed I grew to appreciate little things about my hometown. I loved when the sunset turned the sky into a canvas of pinks and purples. I was excited when local events, like the seafood festival or the fair, came to town. I smiled when the cashier at the grocery store was friendly, asking how my family was doing and if I had a chance to try the new restaurant that just opened down the street.
When it was finally time for me to pack up and move away, I felt an overwhelming amount of sadness to leave. It was weird to graduate high school and say goodbye to my classmates who I quite literally grew up with. I dreaded every goodbye, no matter who I was saying it to. For the longest time I didn't understand why I felt uneasy about leaving, but now I realize that I felt emotionally confused because I planted such strong roots in the town where everyone knew my name. I knew that no matter where I lived next, this town would always be my home.
I could go on and on about how it's beneficial to leave the town you grew up in. You can't expect to experience all walks of life if you stay in the same spot forever, and you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't get out and explore the incredible world we live in. There's one thing about my town that makes it special, though. When I left, I realized what a strong community I had been a part of. Even though my town may not offer endless amounts of thrill and excitement, it does offer an endless amount of love and support. The sense of community that I feel when I'm home is overwhelming. Yes, everyone might know my personal business - and that does bother me at times - but that can also mean people are willing to help you out if you need it.
When I was in elementary school, my teachers and coaches were often the parents of my friends. Having these role models to look up to and listen to throughout my life made me feel safe and secure. I may not have realized it then, but I definitely realize now that the adults in my life look at me as their own. They want the best for me and my peers, and they won't ever stop encouraging me.
I don't think I would have the strong friendships I have now without growing up in my town. I've been lucky enough to call the same two women my best friends for my entire life. We grew up together, we've been with each other through thick and thin, and we've seen each other transform into the young women we are now. Without the bond I have with them, I'm not sure what my life would be like. I can think of several other people who have this same kind of bond with their friends, and it's all thanks to our home.
My small town taught me the importance of being there for each other, even when the going gets tough. The friendly faces I would see around town taught me to always be kind, no matter who I'm talking to. I learned how to be active in the community I lived in, whether it be through volunteering or supporting others in their efforts to make a difference. Most of all, I learned not to measure the significance of people by their successes in life, but instead by the consistent support and outpouring of love they offer to others. Without my small town, I wouldn't be who I am today, and I'm pretty proud of who I've become.