hometown

“You’re not from around here.”

“Excuse me?” I looked up to find an old man grinning at me.

“You’re not from around here. You smile like a country girl.”

“Um….”

“It’s a good thing. People around here don’t smile like that. They’re too caught up in their own business. I grew up in the country, it’s just different there.”

To my hometown,

I had just left you for the last time when those words were spoken to me, though the fact I was obviously not from there would be mentioned frequently in the future. Until that moment, it had never occurred to me that growing up in the country, far from suburbia, had an obvious impact on my life – that it somehow set me apart from those in the city, whether that was through my personality, work ethic or, as a few old men continued to point out, my smile.

In all my years I had never considered growing up in a small town to be a positive thing and, having just run from you, it wasn’t something I really wanted to acknowledge because, let’s be real – I hated you.

From the time I was old enough to understand how suffocating it can be to live in a town where everyone knows everyone to the day that I left, I hated you. I wanted nothing to do with your country roads and cornfields, spending my nights daydreaming of an escape.

Photo courtesy of Greg Henry via Shutterstock
Photo courtesy of Greg Henry via Shutterstock

Of course, when I had no choice but to leave all I wanted to do was stay.

Even now you’re like that ex-boyfriend I can’t ditch – when I have you, I’m bored and when I don’t have you, I miss you. It’s a bit of an annoying cycle and I suppose it’s not even your fault. I’m the one who can’t make up my mind. It’s true, I guess, that you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl.

In the beginning you were my playground. There were few things more exciting than wandering down to the creek behind my house with a bucket to hunt for the perfect rocks to take home and paint for mom. At one point you could barely see our porch beneath my artwork.

On summer days my cousins would come over and we’d ditch the pool in favor of the creek — our own little redneck swimming pool. The crayfish and minnows provided our entertainment as we chased them with our buckets, determined to bring them home. My mom set up a fish tank just for our daily captures, though we sustained more crayfish bites than I can count.

In the evening my great grandma and I would drive around the dirt roads, stopping every time we found a field full of deer.

But, as I grew up, the creeks became too dirty to play in, my cousins too old to play, and deer had lost their charm.

Living in a small town is a lot like living in high school. Everyone knows what you’re doing, even when you don’t. Friends are a rare occurrence though frenemies are in abundance – your neighbor might be inviting you out but surely they’re only doing so so that they can have a gossip session about you the next morning.

When I looked around I saw people who were stuck, people who complained about how miserable this town was but never left. I swore I would never be one of them.

I wasn’t.

My first opportunity to leave came as a 10-day trip to Guatemala. Two days into the trip, I realized why I had been so antsy in my hometown — I had the soul of traveler. Reluctantly, I returned home from the trip, immediately making plans to leave again. The following spring I returned to Guatemala and ventured to Panama.

These trips never led to homesickness — I was more content on the road than I ever had been in a small town.

Photo courtesy of Rolf_52 via Shutterstock
Photo courtesy of Rolf_52 via Shutterstock

That all changed my senior year when I was forced to move across the state with my parents as my dad’s job relocated. Though the change was exciting at first, it only lasted a few days. After only days of living there, I found myself craving the small-town comforts: knowing my friends were two minutes up the street, that I could walk to the gas station and know at least one person pumping their gas, that if anything bad were to happen, I would have someone to come help.

Though I didn’t want to acknowledge it, I began to miss you.

And, in complete contrast to the first 18 years of my life, I began to make plans to return.

The day after I graduated, I was running straight into your arms. This time would be different, I assured myself. Now that I was older, I was not confined by the few streets in town. My return would be temporary, it was only a stopping place while I figured out my next move. Six months, maybe. 9 months at the most.

I stayed two years.

Staying was never an intentional choice. Any time anyone asked, I was just staying while I saved up money. Saved up money to travel, to move to California, to move to Georgia, to go anywhere but stay there with you.

Yet as the months slipped by, my desire to leave faded. I began to find comfort in the things that I had once felt constrained me. For a while, I was exactly where I wanted to be.

Sky at the scenic overlook in her hometowm
Sky at the scenic overlook in her hometowm

Then, things flipped.

Once again, I felt my dreams were stretching far beyond the confines of a small town and even a car wasn’t helping me to break through. The plans that I had let slide away reemerged. The small town drama, the sense of everyone knowing what I was doing before I was doing it, became far too suffocating.

I ran away in the same fashion I returned – suddenly and with a bit of dramatic flair. I ran from you straight to my other lover – Pittsburgh.

It’s been over a year now and while I’m happy that I broke things off, there are still days when I long for your comfort. Nights in Pittsburgh were often lonely and while I’m off traveling the world now and it’s thrilling to be able to redefine myself at any given moment, there are times when all I want to do is crawl back to my little space of the Universe, to that place I’d love to forget but never can, back to you.

Like any ex-lover, you helped shape me into the person I am today. You helped me write my story, shaped my smile into one humble and kind. But we cannot hang on forever to all the things that we love.

I’ll still think of you with a smile.

Xoxo,
Sky

By Sky Fisher

*This post is part of an original Epicure & Culture series, #ProjectLoveNote.

Also Check Out:

#ProjectLoveNote: To Best Friends In Far Places

#ProjectLoveNote: An Ode To Solo Female Travelers

Grassroots Volunteering: A Guide To Global Good On The Road

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Sky Fisher is a small-town country girl with a passion for travel. She has a love affair with Central America and currently calls Costa Rica home. Follow her adventures at Sky vs World.

Sky Fisher

Sky Fisher is a small-town country girl with a passion for travel. She has a love affair with Central America and currently calls Costa Rica home. Follow her adventures at Sky vs World.

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