As cliche as it sounds, many people do change once they're in college. We start this new life with new friends and new hobbies, and our life quickly becomes one wild adventure after another. With everything going on, it'd be hard to stay exactly the same.
The thing is, different lifestyles are for different people, and we need to understand that not everyone wants the same things in life that we do.
I grew up in a super small town. While some might consider their high school graduating class of 250 people to be "super small," I really do mean super small: We had less than 65 in our class, and we had preschool through 12th grade in one building.
It's a town where students' parents also went there together and so did their grandparents. People don't seem to leave, and it doesn't seem like people really ever change or grow up, either. For some, never leaving the community they grew up in is an ideal lifestyle, but it's not for me.
Even though I grew up there, I've never really fit in, even when I was in school. Until I moved away for college, I didn't realize just how true this was. From little things like how I dressed and talked all the way up to the big things like my career aspirations and overall life goals, I couldn't be more different from those I grew up around.
I was always told that after I graduated high school I'd miss how my life used to be — the same routine, the same people and the same activities. I'm sorry to those who miss this, but I absolutely don't. And I'm not sorry. I don't miss my high school life or who I was back then, and people don't need to be mad at me for moving on.
I might have grown up in basically the middle of nowhere, but I dream of city life where there's always a million things going on. Back home, the most exciting thing you can do on any given night is call up your friends and go walk around Walmart. Sure, this gets boring after a few trips, but there's literally nothing else to do.
Since being away, I've learned some pretty important lessons when it comes to hometowns.
1. Never sacrifice who you are for who others want you to be.
You know your goals and what you want in life, and you shouldn't let people tell you otherwise. So what if what you want is different from what others want? Do what makes you happy, and everything else will fall into place.
2. Don't let people discourage you from your dreams.
Seriously, don't do it. If your dream doesn't work out or you change your mind down the road, you can always find a new dream, but do not let anyone tell you no just because of where you're from.
3. Don't feel like you have to stay in your hometown.
Just to clarify, I'm not saying everyone needs to leave. I know people who have stayed local and are thriving, but you shouldn't feel like you have to stay just because everyone else is. Do you want to move to another state or even across the country? If you can make it work, do it.
4. People will try to drag you back into irrelevant drama, but you don't have to let them.
The same drama sticks around with the same families for ages, and it gets tiresome. People are ridiculously judgy and petty in high school, and there needs to be a point in our lives where we let all of that go. Some choose to live in it forever, but honestly? If I have no personal relationship with them, and I haven't talked to them in over five years, I probably don't care about the minor gossip they're involved in. Life is not an episode of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" or "The Bachelor," and I'm too busy working on my goals to be worried about those who think it is.
The bottom line is that home is not a place, it's a feeling. Just because you grew up somewhere doesn't mean it's home. I've only lived in my college town for a year, and it feels more like home to me than any other place has. If that's how you feel too, you don't need to feel bad about it.
We all deserve to have people in our lives who are the first ones we want to talk to when something happens, good or bad, and with that a place to go for comfort if everything seems to be going wrong. I don't get homesick when I'm away at school, but I do when I'm "back home" — for both the place and the people.
If your dream means staying in your hometown, I really do wish you the best and hope you're happy, but your dream isn't mine, and that's OK. I just ask that you don't shame me for mine.