My high school graduating class was around 300 students. Growing up, the odds were everyone knew everyone.
The teachers knew who your older siblings were and everyone's parents owned a local business in town. When you got pulled over, the cop was either your parent's friend, a neighbor from down the street or your friend's parent. That's just the way it was.
I spent four years (probably more if we're being honest) trying to figure out how I was going to get out of that town when I graduated high school. Because the odds were, if you were born there, you were settling there. Finally, after three long, maturing and emotional years later, I finally decided to pack everything I owned into my car (literally) and head north to Seattle, Washington.
Here are four ways to break out of small town life:
1. Break the mold.
You can't put it off. The hardest struggles to get over are the ones you create in your head: I'll do it next year, I'll miss my family too much and What if I hate it? I told those things to myself every day, and the truth is it prevented me from a whole world I had yet to discover.
So, you really just have to do it. Break the mold. Don't listen to reasons why you shouldn't; find one reason you should.
2. Don't look back.
My first weeks in Seattle were dark, and I'm not talking about cloudy skies and buckets of rain. I mean it forced me to face the realization that I was truly alone. I spent hours crying because I was homesick. I was missing my friends, missing a guy who probably didn't even care I had just moved 12 hours away and missing my parents who were always my lifeline.
One morning, I woke up, the sun was actually out (which is rare in November) and I was driving to the first day at my new job. That's when it hit me. My slate was clean. No one had to know what I struggled over to get here. No one had to know where I came from, and where I was headed was a horizon full of endless possibilities. I could be whatever and whoever I wanted to be. That in itself was everything.
3. Leave the fear of being forgotten behind.
I would find myself on Facebook, Instagram or stuck in group messages, seeing all my friends together. They would be at local hangout spots we would frequent growing up. I would get a text about my ex and his new girlfriend. I would see my family at dinner together, paranoid they didn't even notice my absence. People I went to school with were settling down, getting married and having babies. I felt like my train was stuck on the tracks.
I grew to learn and accept that was not the life for me. Honestly, it wasn't even what I wanted. I had trouble deciding what shoes to wear that day, or if I should cut bangs. I was not, and did not want to make any permanent life decisions. I was 626 miles out of my comfort zone, and I still had the world to see. I still wanted nights without sleep. I still craved meeting new people and traveling alone to places to discover what it was like to be just me.
4. Look inside.
What do you like to do? What are your favorite restaurants? What are your favorite movies or music? I constantly see people who just mold themselves around the place they live, its atmosphere and its people. It's similar to those who morph into the person they are dating. I grew up in a small town. Country music was embedded in my brain (I still love it and always will). My days revolved around friends I felt I could be myself around, but I still felt the pressure to impress them. I bent over backward trying to fit the ideal woman in my ex's mind. I had no clue who I was.
I broke out of my comfort zone by moving to a new city. I felt inspired to write lyrics again. I was able to do a job I loved and made a living from it. I met new people who introduced me to the varieties of life I had yet to know of. I sat alone in Barnes & Noble and read books. I had coffee under the Space Needle. I was alone, but I was never lonely.