Dear Hometown:

Hey, it's me. You know, the girl who always dreamed of other places, new people, and new opportunities? The girl who was too shy to admit that this town couldn't offer everything that she dreamed of? The girl who eventually realized that she had to get out of this one-light town and experience other parts of the country where people didn't know her name let alone her entire family history. But, unlike so many others who have grown up and live in that town, she didn't just talk about leaving this town in her rearview mirror she became one of the few who actually did.

Leaving home at 18-years-old is a mix of many emotions: fear, excitement, optimism.

Did I mention fear? Yeah, there's a lot of that.

Moving hours away from home when I'd never really traveled outside of the town that I grew up in was completely out of my comfort zone. In fact, it was something that many people didn't think that I'd ever do and were skeptical that I actually could. But I did. I moved hours away from home, from my family, from my friends, from all things that were familiar to a place that I'd only been to twice before full of new people and places.

At first, I was petrified. As much as I tried to convince myself that I loved my new hometown it didn't feel like home. It was hard to move from a place where I knew everyone to a place where there were no friendly faces. The people talked of places I'd never been (let alone heard of). It was hard to fit in and make friends when it was obvious that I was a "transplant." (Example: Being asked the classic college question, "So, where are you from?" To which many respond a county within W.Va. and I stare at them with the look of obvious confusion because I hardly know other cities in W.Va. other than the one I live in let alone the counties...).

It seemed like this new town would never be home and I would always be missing the town that I left in my rearview mirror. But, thankfully, I adapted to the West Virginia ways... a little bit. (I'll still never understand why they do some of the things they do but it's okay).

Even though I'll always be a "transplant," I'll forever be thankful that I left my hometown in the rearview mirror and set out for a place completely unknown. I've learned so many things about myself that I don't know I would've discovered if I would've stayed in the town that I was comfortable in.

I'm so thankful that in my new hometown where I've had to figure out everything all on my own that I have successfully done so. I can get around town like a champ (I've even discovered a few short-cuts), I can handle adult things like grocery shopping, money management, laundry, dishes and even a leaky pipe. I discovered my own personal strength which may have been the biggest blessing of all. Had I not have left my hometown, I'm not sure I would have become the strong, independent person I am today.

So, to the town in my rear-view mirror, thank you for everything.

Mostly, thank you for providing me a tight-knit community to have grown up in. There were many times I was sheltered from the harsh realities of the world I've discovered in my new hometown but I wouldn't trade that community for the world. I know that no matter where I go, if ever I go home to the town that build me, there will always be a friendly face and countless memories flooding my mind of times gone by.