I spent the past week staying at my parents’ house after spending the summer living and working out-of-state.
There I was, the place that held so many memories of my youth. The place I had desperately dreamed of escaping as soon as I turned 18. It's the kind of place you don’t talk about with new friends because you don’t want it to become something that defines you.
Although, as much as my teenage self hates to admit, being from a small town very much shaped whom I grew up to be. And, as I drove through the familiar neighborhood, I realized I don’t hate it so much anymore.
In fact, growing up in a small town taught me several lessons for which I am still grateful.
Never give up the desire to explore.
On a recent visit to New York City, I met a group of 20-somethings who grew up in Harlem. They had been friends since high school and never considered leaving NYC. And, why should they?
When you live in a city with as many opportunities as New York, the incentive to look elsewhere is much lower than when you’re from a town with a population under 10,000.
When you grow up in a small town, you’re constantly thinking about the day you’ll move on to bigger and better things. It's a sort of youthful idealism that stays with you, even after you’ve transitioned to big city life (or wherever else your adventures take you).
There is comfort in familiarity.
Although it’s exciting to move somewhere new and different, sometimes it’s nice to go back to the place where everybody knows your name. When you move away, you experience the culture shock of being a small fish in a big pond, which can be both rewarding and overwhelming.
It’s strangely refreshing to run into your old choir teacher at the grocery store and get questions like, “How’s your mom doing?” because nobody knows you like that anymore.
Confidence isn’t rooted in money or materialism.
One of the first things I noticed when I moved to the city was how beautiful people look when they run errands or even go to the gym.
If you grew up in a small town, you understand that it is perfectly acceptable to go out in public without makeup, wearing just a t-shirt and gym shorts. Now, when I go to Target, I feel like J. Crew models surround me and anything less than business casual is deeply frowned upon.
But, you know what? I still have t-shirt and gym shorts days, and I walk proudly through the produce aisle with no makeup on a semi-regular basis. Though I may have adopted a city lifestyle, my small-town upbringing taught me that there’s more to life than trying to impress others.
There’s a creative solution to every problem.
When there’s no mall, movie theater or bowling alley within a 50-mile radius, you're kind of forced to get creative when it comes to how you spend your time.
Whether this meant making a graveyard horror film, having a redneck photoshoot at Walmart or playing town-wide hide and seek, my high school friends and I spent many a weekend coming up with alternative ways to have fun. And, I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.
Slow and steady really does win the race.
In the city, it seems like people try to get to their destinations as quickly as possible. But sometimes, it’s nice to simply enjoy the moment. Things move a lot slower on Main Street in my town than they do on Wall Street.
Although sometimes it may feel like you’re running to catch up with the hustle and bustle of big city life, small town kids understand that patience is a virtue. Going too fast can lead you to miss out on many simple pleasures in life.
The best things in life are local.
You think In-N-Out has the greatest hamburgers ever? That’s cute, child of suburbia. You clearly haven’t had a #2 from Dan’s Burgers and Fries.
You know what I miss most about my small town? Chips and queso from the local Tex-Mex restaurant. Sure, I can get chips and queso at plenty of other places, but nothing else tastes like the perfect blend of mouth-watering amazingness and home.
Early 2000s teenage dramas were the best.
You didn’t jump on the "Gilmore Girls" bandwagon once it came out on Netflix; you grew up with Lorelai and Rory because they understood your life.
You related to Dawson and Joey’s idealistic need to explore more than Capeside had to offer. You empathized with the all-too-familiar family and social drama that "One Tree Hill" kids faced.
You laugh when your city friends tell you they discovered a great new show on Netflix, seeing as you watched all four seasons of "Everwood" as a teenager (and had a crush on Chris Pratt before he was cool). If you grew up in a small town, you didn't just like these shows, you lived them.
When it comes to gossip, you just gotta shake it off.
Taylor Swift’s newest revelation is something with which I’ve been familiar for a long time. When you grow up in a place where everyone knows everyone, you’re bound to experience some gossip.
Being a super goody-goody didn’t mean I escaped the mean girl rumor mill in high school; in fact, my lack of a scandalous reputation seemed to make me even more of a target.
Instead of letting it get to you, this forces you to develop an inner shield against small-minded chatter. You don’t let yourself get involved in that kind of stuff in the workplace or anywhere else because you’ve already learned how pointless it is.
While there are plenty of great things about living in a city, I’ll forever be grateful for the tiny dot on the map that I call my hometown. Even though I sometimes hate to admit it, it will always be the place I call home.