When I was growing up, even though I had a blessed childhood, I had one laser-beam-type focus—getting out of my tiny hometown. I had dreams of big cities. I had dreams of high-powered jobs, small apartments and an 80-hour work week. I was going to get out. I was going to be important. I was going to change the world. And I certainly wasn’t going to be stuck in a nowhere town for the rest of my life. I wasn’t going to be like all the washed up adults that still lived in the place they grew up. I was going to be different. I was going to be something special.
It seemed so cut-and-dry when I was 18. There were two choices—you were either able to break the chains and get out of the small town you grew up in or you fell-short of your potential and stayed locked in the hell that was small-town Indiana forever. It never even occurred to me that there was a third choice—choosing the small-town life. And now, here I am, a decade later, and I’ve made that choice. I made the choice to stay in.
It’s interesting how immediate the realisation was that the life I thought I wanted wasn’t for me. It was within only a few weeks of being in college. Even though I went to college in a relatively small town (80,000 people, half of which are students), it still felt too big. It felt too impersonal. It felt too claustrophobic. It became painfully obvious that “getting out” wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. It wasn’t just homesickness. It was a deep-seated feeling of misplacement. It wasn’t for me.
Very quickly, my dreams of high-rise condos and frequent flyer miles dissipated and a new dream appeared in place of it—I wanted to live a life I chose. Regardless of if that meant living in a tent on farm or in a penthouse apartment, I wanted to give myself the opportunity to choose. So I worked hard in college and after. Everyone told me I was “meant for greatness” and I totally believed them. Although I’m sure by “meant for greatness” they meant some important life in an important city and to me “meant for greatness” meant the potential to be whatever I wanted.
So after college, I tried it out. I did a quick jaunt living and working in a “real” city complete with skyscrapers, Starbucks on every corner and interstates. Man, did I hate it. I didn’t just feel misplaced anymore, I felt totally and completely out-of-my-element. I felt alone. I felt confused. It was a really, really dark time for me. Suddenly, the thing I’d so desperately wanted to escape only a few years prior—small-town life—I craved like it was a drug. I moved a few more times after my time in the big city, but I was always thinking about going home. I was always sure I’d get back there. I always knew it was what I was going to choose.
And now that I have the choice, I’ve chosen home. I chose staying in.
I am so proud that I gave myself the ability to choose. I honestly feel like I could go anywhere and do anything. Nothing is holding me back. I am so proud of myself for working hard and being the best me I can be and giving myself the opportunity to choose my life.
I know a lot of people probably think I’m a failure. I’ve moved back to my hometown. I’m living in the house I grew up in. My parents are my neighbors. My future kids will probably graduate from the same high school I did. But I don’t feel like a failure. And I certainly don’t feel like I was forced into this life. It was a conscious, clear, and purposeful decision that I made. If anything, I feel like the most successful person I know, because I chose my life. I chose small town. And that feels amazing.