When I was 18, I packed up my bags and left my hometown of 2,500 people to go to a university of more than 50,000 students.
Growing up, I was never aware of how different my life was from others, but the questions I got from people at school quickly made me realize that most people grew up in a completely different world.
"So what did you guys do for fun?"
"Did you really know everyone in your class?"
"Where do you guys go shopping then?"
"Does everyone live on a farm?"
(I honestly think this is what people thought my childhood was like)
At first, I was a little uncomfortable sharing details that seemed to be so unheard of to most people. Was my life weird compared to others? What all had I missed out on?
However, after a few weeks of spotting all the differences my friends from big cities and I have, I found a new appreciation for my small hometown.
In fact, I started to realize a lot of things about my hometown that I had taken for granted. I decided to take some time to think of all the valuable lessons I've learned from growing up in a small town:
1. Small acts of kindness can go a long way.
I feel like I was constantly surrounded by small acts of kindness growing up. Waving at strangers when you pass them in your car, holding the door open for people, keeping in touch with old teachers, supporting a local family in need. When I went to college, I realized most of these were really uncommon for most people. Not only do these little acts of kindness usually make someone's day, but they also can make yours as well.
2. Casey's pizza is the best pizza.
3. Appreciate opportunity.
When you go to a small high school, you have the opportunity to be involved in pretty much everything. In high school, I was able to play multiple sports, be in different clubs, have my acting debut in our senior play, and even be the class president (even if it was just a college application booster).
Be thankful you get the chance to try out so many different things. Most people have to pick 1-2 things to stick to at a young age.
4. Be mindful of what you say and do.
Rumors and gossip spread like wildfire in a small town. Secrets never stay safe for too long, so always try to make wise decisions.
5. Always pay attention to the little things in life.
Life always seems to move a little slower when I come back to my hometown. It's like people take the time to truly appreciate their surroundings. They stop and talk to people at the coffee shop. People sit on their porches to watch the sunsets or listen to the crickets. People drive to farms to buy fresh sweet corn.
It might be a little untraditional to some people, but taking the time to actually appreciate the little things in life is so worth it.
6. You're never too good for your hometown.
No matter how successful you may become, you're never too good for your hometown. You wouldn't be the person you are today without it. Don't be that person with their nose up in the air.
7. Your hometown friends are your forever friends.
You meet so many new people when you go off to college and experience different seasons of life; however, there really is nothing like your hometown friends. These are the people who you were around before you could even walk, who you started preschool with and walked together at your high school graduation, and who were truly part of each other's families for so many years.
Sure, you might lose touch over the years, but those friendships will always exist.
8. Support local businesses.
Local business owners do so much for communities. Always make the effort to support them whenever you can.
9. Fancy things in life don't equal happiness.
I know people who live in little houses, drive old cars, and have the happiest lives. I also know people who live in mansions, drive the newest sports cars, and have miserable lives. It's okay to dream big and want fancy things, but you have to know those don't guarantee happiness.
10. There really is no place like home.
I think experiencing different parts of the world is so important; however, I've realized that moving away from my hometown has made me appreciate it so much more than I used to. It's given me a fresh perspective, and I've learned that there really is no place like home.