"It happens to everyone as they grow up. You find out who you are and what you want, and then you realize that people you've known forever don't see things the way you do. So you keep the wonderful memories, but find yourself moving on."
Growing up, I was a walking, talking cliche. I grew up in a town too small to have a place on a map. I had bleach blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and was active in the FFA. Everything about me screamed small town, southern girl and I loved it. I loved the feel of my tiny town. I loved the seclusion it brought from the hustle and bustle of the busier cities. I loved how everyone knew your name and all about you. There was a certain type of magic about it and I never thought I would leave, until the magic wore off and I saw my tiny town for what it really was. I never hated my tiny town and I never will, I've simply outgrown it. Some people look at this as I think I am too good or too successful to settle back down into that town, but that's simply not the truth.
My hometown will always hold memories that no other place can take away.
I used to look at my hometown like it was the only town in the world. It saw my first steps, my first day of school, my first boyfriend, first kiss, and first heartbreak. Everywhere I look in that town holds a memory. Rather it be good or bad, each place brings a sudden flood of mental images specific to the life of my developing self. I met my best friends there; some have stayed and some have left. That town shaped and molded me into the woman I am today. The woman that decided there was more out there and gave her the courage to go after it.
It will always be the town of all my high school memories.
Even though I didn't realize it at the time, like many of us don't, high school was a wonderful and pivotal time in my life. This town was the home of the place that helped me decide what the rest of my life was to be. The place that I walked skiddishly into on my first day, and confidently out of on my last. All of my high school friends were created there. These were the people that surrounded myself with and allowed to influence me. Some have left and stayed in touch. With these friends I swap stories about my new life and where I plan to go next. We share the same terrifying question of what will happen next. Other friends have made a home of their own there. These are the friends I run into when I go back to visit. The ones that I share memories with about all the nights we stayed out too late, drove too fast, and didn't think clearly enough. Some still live this way, and there's nothing wrong with that. But me? I've chosen a new life.
I may not have gone far, but the impact my college town had on me was life changing.
When I was picking colleges, I still had the mindset that this portion of the state was superior to all the others. I thought that the deep south of Georgia was where I would stay. So naturally, I chose a school down here. Although the school was only an hour away from my hometown, it felt like an entirely different world. I found and interacted with people that came from different worlds than I did. People that came from slightly larger towns in North Georgia all the way to people who grew up in different countries. I heard all the stories, and even visited a few of the places. I was influenced and grew as a person by finding and hanging around college friends. They didn't know why I was the way I was like my high school friends do, but they were there as I transformed from a kid to an adult. That created a tight bond that will never be broken. After experiencing all of that and coming back to my hometown, I came to a stark realization. My hometown no longer felt like home. The unpaved streets became a nuisance, everyone knowing my business left me feeling violated rather than loved, and the once comforting seclusion left me feeling uneasy.
Home just didn't feel like home anymore.
After spending time in my college town and planting my roots there, I realized no where really had the home feeling anymore. It's a weird sensation that you can't describe and can only understand if you've felt it before. You suddenly feel like a drifter with infinite possibilities for a new hometown and a different life. It was a feeling that was terrifying. That security I had previously felt by knowing where I wanted to start my adult life was gone. I now had no clue.
Life marches on.
My years in college are quickly coming to an end. That terrifying feeling that accompanied not knowing what town I was going to call home, has turned into excitement and wanderlust. I know find myself researching town in different areas of the states and that contain a different speed of life. I imagine my life in the mountains, by the ocean, or even in a new country when I'm feeling extra confident. I still don't know where the winds of life will guide me, but I do know one thing: where ever I go, I will always be the same small town girl. I'll always be the girl that my hometown shaped me to be. My hometown will forever hold a special place in my heart.