About a year ago I was preparing to make the move from my small town home of Tracy, Minnesota, to my college city of Orlando, Florida. I couldn't wait to leave. Of course, I was sad to leave my family, but I was more than ready to get out into the world and leave my small hometown behind.
Growing up, I spent endless hours complaining about how much it sucked to live in a town of 2,000 people. There was never anything to do and nothing much ever really changed. However, looking back now, I've realized that Tracy taught me a lot more than I ever thought possible.
1. It's okay to feel like you don't belong.
When I was in both elementary and high school, I wanted so badly to fit in. I wanted everyone to like me and agree with my thoughts and opinions. I started pushing my ideals down and began to go along with what everyone else thought because like I said, fitting in was important to me. It wasn't until I was a junior in high school that I realized trying to fit in was not worth the trouble I was putting myself through. I would never be athletic or big into sports. I would never have that last name that everyone seemed to worship. I especially didn't want to spend the rest of my life in this area. Without these realizations, I probably never would have even applied to UCF, so I'm glad something finally clicked because I've never felt like I've belonged somewhere like I do when I'm in Orlando.
2. It's extremely important to have a strong work ethic.
Ever heard of the "Midwestern Work Ethic"? Growing up as a farmer's daughter, I learned the importance of hard work from a very young age. There were early mornings that quickly turned into late nights. There was always something to be done, whether you wanted to do it or not. My grandpa, dad, and I would spend our early summer days picking rock. Which if you're not from the midwest, probably means nothing to you. But think of the most boring job you've ever had to do and multiply that by 10. Not only did I spend countless summer days out in the fields picking up rocks, but as soon as I turned 16, I had another job because somebody had to pay for my gas. I always put my heart and soul into whatever job I'm doing, because working hard gives me a huge sense of pride in myself.
3. There's nothing like small-town friendships.
Something that seems crazy to most people I've met since being a college student is the fact that my graduating class was only fifty students. That's right, fifty. Having only forty-nine other classmates definitely had its cons and it takes a while to find your group, but once you do find those people, your life will forever be improved.
It took me until Sophomore year before I found a good friend I felt I could completely trust. She soon turned into a sister and we've been best friends ever since. Even 1600 miles apart, I can always count on her to be there for me. When I'm having the worst day ever, I can count on her to call me and cheer me up because somehow she just knows that something's up. She's the one who knows about every mistake I've made, every imperfection I have, every single deep dark secret, and I wouldn't have it any other way. If I had grown up in a city like I had always dreamed of, I never would have met her and a piece of me would definitely be missing.
4. Small towns are really just big, dysfunctional families.
You've got your crazy party-animals, your chill homebodies, your stable families, your not-so-stable families, your hard workers, your lazies, your geniuses, and your not-so-smarts. The list could go on and on. Your family probably has someone that could fall into each category. Just like my town.
There's a person or group to fill each category. Everyone's always there and up in your business, especially when they don't need to be. Everyone knows everything about you, or so they like to think they do. Everyone's bound to judge your decisions and actions in some way or another. But when anything bad happens, everyone pulls together and takes care of the problem. Whether you're best friends or arch enemies, you can count on everyone to be there when the going gets tough. There really is no better support system than a small town, dysfunctional family.
Though I did spend many years complaining about how awful growing up in such a small town was, I really am grateful for everything I learned here. Leaving my parents for good in the fall definitely won't be easy, but I am comforted knowing that I've finally found somewhere I belong.