Small towns are many different things to many different people.
To most, it's the comforting feeling of familiarity when they coincidentally sit next to the girl they know from English Homeroom.
To the others, it's the regretful decision of going to a movie theatre within 10 miles of their house because, obviously, everyone is there, even that girl from English Homeroom.
I was a part of the latter.
To me, my small town never resembled close-knit friendships and an endless sea of connections. My small town was secrets your best friend promised not to tell, but always did anyway, and the obvious glare from all one hundred of your high school peers when a rumor spread about what you did last Friday night.
Wherever you were raised played a big part in teaching you, shaping you, and ultimately growing you from the ground up, whether you realize it or not. And I'd like to think that small towns play an even bigger part in this.
Despite the many conflicting opinions in the town that watched me grow and eventually sent me on my way, I owe a pretty big thank you. So, to that small town in southern Mississippi, thank you.
Thank you for teaching me that life isn't fair. The girl who you expect to win prom queen probably will, but it doesn't mean she deserves it.
Thank you for putting me in my place when I felt above the rest. Give it a few months and you’ll make the same mistake as the girl you gossiped about in the bathroom at school.
Thank you for showing me the wholesomeness of humanity. When you’re mourning, always say yes when neighbors offer to bring over a casserole.
Thank you for teaching me that, no, not all friendships are meant to last forever. Especially the ones in highs school. Even though you'll slowly lose contact and eventually unfollow them on social media, you can always look back at old pictures and smile.
Thank you for making me appreciate safety and security. Whether it be a peek out of a window from a neighbor or a local police officer stopping by to check on you when you're home alone, it makes a difference.
Thank you for making me feel important. We're really small in this giant world, but the fact that a whole town knows where you work and when you were born will make you feel pretty special one day.
Thank you for forcing me to learn from my mistakes. When you feel like an entire town is whispering about you, you'll straighten up pretty quick.
Thank you for reminding me that the good in this world will always outweigh the bad. If you don't think it's true, try and go a day without witnessing a good deed. (You won't be able to do it, but go ahead and try.)
Thank you for giving me an appreciation of the church. Go live on your own, make your parents mad, fail a test or two, make a big-time mistake, then go sit down in a pew on Sunday morning. You'll probably cry, but that's okay.
Thank you for showing me the value of hard work. Go ahead and compete for Captain with that frenemy you’ve had since Kindergarten. It’ll come in handy one day.
Thank you for teaching me humility. If you've never stopped to talk to the lady that works at your local gas station, you're missing out on a lot of knowledge.
Thank you for encouraging me to love. Love the girl who you thought was your best friend but proved to be the opposite. Love the cashier you just met at Walmart that happens to know your dad’s brother. Love your neighbors. Love your parents. Love your town.
So, to that small town where I experienced the majority of my greatest hurts, yet a few of my greatest triumphs, thank you. I’ll see you next Christmas.