My entire life I grew in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago, in the village of Addison. But it never occurred to me how out of place I felt until not too long before my high school graduation.
You see, Addison is all I ever knew. My parents grew up here, they went through the same exact school system, they roamed down the same exact streets, and went to the same exact places. I just about lived the same life as them, just about twenty-five years later. Not only did my parents grow up there, but so did many of my high school teachers and many of the staff members. Addison seemed so inescapable, and I was not going to let this town engulf me.
This town did not feel right. After a terrible two weeks leading up to graduation, I was even more motivated to break out of that place. I had a good run, but this wasn't home. It was just my hometown.
I didn't know what home felt like until I moved to Florida to attend school at Florida Gulf Coast University. Yes, I was a little nervous to be nineteen hours away from my family, to be on my own for the first time ever. But the transition was so smooth, because I felt so at home (pun intended). People have what they call a "happy place", Florida is my happy place. I feel so free there, I feel so alive. I am so at ease in Florida, that is my home.
I do feel bitter towards my hometown, I feel bitter towards some of the people. I vowed to never live there ever again, I vowed to not raise my children there because I want them to experience something more. Addison is nothing special, neither is Illinois, but it was a decent starting point.
My mom taught me to venture out young, to plant my roots where I'd like to grow. Addison is not where I blossomed, Florida is where I bloomed. But to those who helped me with my first steps: thank you.
Thank you to my elementary school teachers for showing me those baby steps to success.
Thank you to my middle school teachers for showing me I am greater than anything that school has ever produced.
Thank you to my high school teachers for wholeheartedly believing in me and cheering me on every step of the way.
Thank you to the four friends who stuck by my side no matter the circumstance, you're the reason I come back to visit.
Thank you to my parents for giving me a solid base and allowing me to spread my wings, though I know it was hard to watch me leave.
Thank you to my brother for being my absolute best friend and always putting up with me.
But more importantly, thank you to everyone who showed me the potential I have, thank you for showing me what I'm capable of without you, thank you for being the worst example of a human being possible.
Feeling unwelcome where you grew up is a horrible feeling, but knowing you've found your home somewhere else is rewarding. I wouldn't change my childhood, I'm thankful for where I was raised. But I'm even more thankful for where I am taking responsibility for myself. It's okay if your hometown doesn't feel like home, you'll find what home is one day down the road.