I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my hometown.
Casar is hardly a town at all, with less than a thousand people, most of which live outside the “city limits”. The residents of the county I live in have always had a love and hate relationship with my hometown too. We’re the rednecks, the white trash, the hicks… And thirty years ago, if you asked the man who used to pastor the church my extended family has always attended, he’d tell you that Casar was filled with a bunch of devil worshipers, drug addicts, and sinners. Forget the fact that there’s a Methodist or a Baptist church on almost every road.
I always dreamed of “getting out”, like many young people do when they grow up in small, rural towns.
I wanted to grow up, travel the world, go to school, and you know, LIVE. My eyes were always seeking the horizon, wondering what interesting lives and adventures waited around the bend, or over the mountains. One of my favorite musings as a kid and young teen was filling a bag with essentials, grabbing my bike, and just picking a direction to see what I could find.
This was before the internet. There was only what could be seen on the television or read in books. I was a big fan of the Discovery channel, nature documentaries, forensic file shows, NOVA specials, and history shows. I used to read the encyclopedia and dictionary, picking a random entry and following references, terminology, and chance through the twenty-six letters of the alphabet.
I was in love with Japan (thanks James Clavell). I wanted to see Ireland. I wanted, in turn, to be an actress, a model, a paleontologist, a writer…anything that would let me travel the world, see exotic places, do amazing things that couldn’t be done in my little, backwoods, forgotten corner of the South.
I never felt like I belonged here – and honestly, I didn’t want to. I wanted to do so many things, go so many places, and be so many different things. Most of it I never did and still haven’t.
You see, leaving Casar turned out to be harder than I thought it would be.
For one, I was afraid to go to college when I was eighteen. I didn’t want to live on campus with a bunch of strangers, in a city or a state I’d never been to. I didn’t want to leave my aikido school and start somewhere else. I could’ve gone to a local university, but with the exception of the community colleges, none were affordable. I didn’t know anyone or anything outside my town, my county.
But more than that, I didn’t want to leave my family behind.
I graduated in 2005. When I was in 9th grade, the Trade Towers and Pentagon were hit. I was in Drama class when we got the news and my teacher turned on the television. Our class watched while it all went down (literally). These were the years that school shootings started happening – Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, and later the shooting at Fort Bragg. The world seemed like such a dangerous, dark place.
We always had a saying in my family – that if you mess with one of us, you messed with all of us. We were taught to always have each other’s back. To always back each other up. The idea of leaving that kind of support behind – to go out on my own with no backup was scary. I didn’t want to be hours away from home.
I was an insecure kid – naïve and wet behind the ears – what did I know about taking care of myself?
So I stayed home, tried to go to the local community college, but it didn’t work out at the time. So I went to work, and I got in and out of stupid relationships. You know, normal stuff.
But what does all this have to do with anything, right? Why am I giving you a rundown on my life history? You, a probable stranger on the internet.
Well, the truth is that the last couple of years have really made me think about my own life. I’ve had to make the choice to stay at home with my son, instead of working. I’ve been using that time to go back to school. I’m finally finishing up a two-year degree and there’s another one I want to get – one that, coupled with some new hobbies of mine, could turn into an at-home business (more on that later).
My life isn’t turning out remotely how I dreamed it would when I was a kid or teenager, but the lessons I’ve learned since then have made me who I am. They’ve turned me into a strong, capable woman, who makes plans and then does her damnedest to see them through.
I still have a love-hate relationship with my hometown; most of who I am and what I believe in differs from the status quo in Casar. But my family is here and the life I want to build will continue to develop here.
Maybe one day I will leave, head towards the horizon, and discover wonderful things.
For now, I’m content to seek out wondrous things where I am. In my own backyard. In this little, forgotten corner of the South.