Is Your Hometown Where Your Heart Is? [Confessions of a Twenty-Something]

There is something special about my hometown, and I bet there is something special about yours too. It’s the place you grew up. It’s the place you had your first kiss. It’s the place you left behind when you went off to college. It’s the place you were always itching to go back to come Christmastime. It’s your memories. It’s a part of you.

As college kids, hometowns were more than just a resting place for when our “college lives” got to be too exhausting (all nighters, keg races, final exams, etc.), they were a special little piece of our past that we could always return to, like a special time-traveling device that only we knew how to work—our own personal Delorean. Though sometimes hometowns mean heartache, pain, and memories that we’d rather forget, they represent a piece of who we are whether we like it or not. You can always run from where you’re from, but that doesn’t change where you’re from.

I grew up in a relatively large suburban town in Illinois. Whenever asked to describe it, I like to compare it to Pleasantville. Everyone’s grass is green and trimmed to perfection. You say hello to your neighbors (whom you’ve known for years) with a friendly grin as you walk your dog down the street. You attend the football games on Friday night with genuine enthusiasm, and you can’t go to the grocery store without running into someone you know. To many, this could seem pretty great or it could seem absolutely terrible. I’ve leaned on both sides of that spectrum throughout my life.

I have a very strong attachment to my hometown. It’s where I was born and grew up for my entire life (minus a few years of dorm life at a state university). It’s where I met my best friends, it’s where I fell in love, got my heart broken and then fell in love again, and it’s where I learned some of the hardest life lessons at the worst times. My hometown seeps deep into my soul, but I’ve never resented it. I love my hometown. I always will.

After a health emergency my junior year of college, I had no choice but to leave my “college life” and head home. I moved back into my childhood bedroom, and in no time, I also moved back into the groove of suburban life. (I love my bed more than anything on this planet, so that’s pretty much all I needed). I get along with my family very well, so living at home wasn’t an issue for me. I almost became too comfortable living at home. I began classes at a private college in my town while the rest of my friends graduated and moved all over the country. Some moved to Austin, some to New York, some Boston, some Los Angeles, and (thankfully) some back to Pleasantville.

Even though I was blissful some of my best high school friends had moved back home, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of jealously towards my friends who had escaped—I mean, moved away…

If you read my last piece, you know I recently took a trip to Nashville, Tennessee. I didn’t want to bore you then with how much I loved that city, so I will now! Nashville is a place that has everything I could ever want in a place to live (Manfriend is an extra bonus). The people, the music, little dive bars—everything about Nashville exudes hospitality and love. Now I adore Chicago, don’t get me wrong. It’s a great city, and will always have a special place in my heart, but the laid-back atmosphere of Nashville just puts me at ease. It’s not so congested. People in the North tend to be a little ruder than people from the South, and I would be lying if I said that those southern accents plus politeness didn’t sell me within the first hour of my visit.

After returning from my trip, I was in a complete funk that I couldn’t shake for days. I walked into my house that night and wanted to jump right back into my car and turn around. The trip made me realize I could be somewhere else and fit there too. It made me realize my hometown wasn’t all there is. As a self-diagnosed anxiety-ridden freak with a small case of agoraphobia, I had a sudden epiphany that I can travel other places and be okay.

One day, I will move out of my childhood home, and instead of being frightened or worrisome that I’m taking a risk that may just be a little too risky, I will be excited and hopeful for the future because I have realized that there is so much more to my life than my hometown. I’ve learned that even my little state of Illinois has so much to offer. I am currently writing to you from an eclectic coffee shop a few towns over that my friend and I randomly discovered. Instead of a trip to our typical Starbucks ‘coffice’, we turned to Yelp for a recommendation of something new and different.

As twenty-somethings, we tend to be in a limbo stage. We aren’t quite adults, but we’re definitely not tweens. This limbo doesn’t have to be scary or stressful. We can use this limbo dance to our advantage. As twenty-somethings, we are in the most opportune stage to explore. Get out there. Travel. Whether it’s a cross-country roadtrip or an afternoon exploring the town just one stop before yours on the Metra train; the time is now. Your hometown will always be there when you get back, I promise.

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