Why It's Important to Leave Your Hometown (Even if You Go Back)

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Growing up in a small-town is incredible. Nothing beats walking up to the school with a pack of 20 of your closest friends to play a game of touch (usually turned tackle) football, waiting for the sun to set for a round of manhunt, and hitting up the local carnival to try to win a goldfish in the summer. When you get to high school, you live and die by the Friday night lights, bonfires, and school dances. Trust me, I did too. And all of it was wonderful. I wouldn't have wanted to be brought up anywhere else. But I never realized how much more there truly is. Sure, I'd dreamed of the big city life - living in New York, or Los Angeles, sipping a hot coffee (that I didn't like) and click-clacking my way to an important office job. But, to be honest, the thought of actually doing any of that seemed...terrifying and overwhelming.

When I first moved to Pittsburgh, I was scared shitless. Ask my mom. I'd never been outside of my little hometown bubble for more than ten days - and that was for a family vacation. Yet, there I was, packing up my life, saying goodbye to the only friends I'd ever known, and moving four hours outside of my comfort zone. It didn't take long on my first day in the city to realize that I was alone. For the first time ever, I was on my own and living in a brand new city with my strange, strange, roommate and absolutely no one that I knew. I was, you could say, just a small-town girl...living in a lonely world.

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But, to my surprise, slowly and surely, things began to change. Suddenly, my views (that I had been so set in my entire life), began to expand. I met many new people, was exposed to previously unheard of (to me) thoughts and ideas, and slowly began to become me. The real me. With my own opinions, my own stances on world issues, and my own experiences. I took more chances and travelled more and didn't care about the bullshit drama. I could walk away from people who became an issue and never had to worry about running into them at the bar the next night. I'd never have that freedom at home. When you're surrounded by the same people and problems in your adult life that you were with in high-school, how are you supposed to grow past that? How are you supposed to find out who you are beyond those county lines if you never leave?

Being away from my hometown has also made me appreciate going home more. I want my future kids to grow up with a yard like I did and a solid group of friends that carries them through their school years and beyond. I want them to experience small-town life, so who knows? Maybe one day I'll end up back home and I'll share this post with them to help along their adventures. Now, I'm a high-fashion weekday, but I'm still a blue jean Friday night. I was brought up on Froggy and am therefore the only one in my current friend group who has an appreciation for and loves country music. But, now I know that there are REAL problems in this world. I'm not afraid to embrace change, even if it affects me negatively, if it is in pursuit of the greater good. I'm aware that our differences are what makes us who we are and we don't have to try to fit into any sort of stereotype. I'm proud to say that Berwick raised me, but Pittsburgh made me. And perhaps, most importantly, I am happy.

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My advice to anyone who has never left home is to do so as soon as you can. Maybe your journey won't take you as far as mine - maybe you'll head to the next town over. Or maybe it will take you much further across the country, or even the globe. And I would suggest doing it alone. See who you are when no one is around to tell you who to be. I think you'd be surprised. And maybe you'll leave and absolutely hate everywhere that you go and wind up heading back home. That's GREAT! At least you will know for sure that you are where you are meant to be. You won't have to wonder and you can start living life to its' fullest.

xx