Leaving a Small Hometown for Something Bigger
Feeling Stuck in Mucktown
Your last years spent in a small hometown can often feel like standing in murky stagnant water- you can't see where you're going, but if you stand there any longer you'll sink. I know the feeling...well. I was from a small (pop. 880) town and wanted to escape about five years before I actually did, but I am certainly glad I finally did- no regrets.
I did not aim big for getting out- no magnificent plans of being a Hollywood actress or traveling the world. Just needed to escape that town, create myself over again without the labels old friends stuck on me, and without the same roads I'd been down a million times before. I had to escape the town where all the people I knew from high school were marrying the kid they played with in 3rd grade, having babies, living in their parent's 4th generation house, and doing the same things they always did years before. I saw the cycle closing in on me, it was inevitable, and it felt like a doomsday approaching swift as a tsunami.
However, without those people, a small town would die. There are people meant for that life, appreciate it, find true happiness in those confines, and I respect that. I was shocked by how many people I knew from High School stayed behind. I thought everyone felt like I did- 'Get out while you can!!' I wonder though if some wanted to, but something held them back. Not me and perhaps if you're reading this, not you either.
My Get OUT story
I wanted more. In high school I began to feel, not better than, but that I had higher expectations of my life than the people in my hometown. College was one goal, babies was not. I was 22 and bartending in a city with a cool night life was another goal, serving the Friday night special in my hometown diner was not.
I had a boyfriend at the time and was bold enough to tell him I was moving whether he wanted to or not. I picked up and left and found a place I liked. My boyfriend joined me about 3 months later. He had motivation to move too- better pay and hours for a company he could transfer to...and me. He lasted one year and ended up moving back- getting out wasn't for him.
I did everything I wanted to. I only had that cool bartending job for 5 months, but it was a dream accomplished. It was cool, but I wanted to live the night life, not work it. I wanted to dance the nights away and let's face it, nothing colder and more awkward than dancing with a booze bottle behind a counter- good for tips, bad for range of fun. I completed college as well, and can say I have lived a good enough life here that I don't miss anything about my old life in my small hometown. I have to admit, getting away makes you almost a celebrity. Everybody wants to know what it's like to live somewhere else and there's a few ooh's and ahh's about it.
Goals for Getting OUT
I mentioned above about the girl who wants to get out and go to Hollywood to make it big or the guy who packs up and travels the world- there are those people and while that wasn't my case, they have something in common that can help the common person get out of dodge...Goals.
If you want to get out of your small hometown, you must have a goal- something must drive you. While it may not be as big as Hollywood, it is usually bigger than your existence in a small hometown. It is bigger than what you're doing with your life now. It is something worth reaching for and aspiring to. It is something that has to propel you strong enough that when you want to give up or it seems much easier to stay where you're at, every fiber of your being won't let you.
Goals can vary. Perhaps you want to get married and you want a bigger sea to fish in, than your prospects in a small town. Maybe college is your path to freedom. Even the military can take you places. If money is your driving force, then look to a bigger city for more potential. You have options, but don't make someone else's goal your own. You truly need to come up with something that inspires you and like I've mentioned above, it doesn't have to be spectacular.
Time is Ticking
Most who want to escape the grasp of their hometown holding them back, want to get out as soon as possible. This is a great idea, however, consider it carefully because those who leave too early have a higher chance of returning. You have to be mature enough and ready to accomplish your goal(s). It's also helpful to know what it's like to live alone if you are planning to make the move by yourself. Don't set yourself up for being homesick if this is your first time away from home and on your own.
Timing it right tips:
- Have a goal beyond just wanting to leave.
- Try it out. If you have friends or family that live in an area that interests you, go visit them. This is ideal.
- Decide how far is too far and how far is not far enough.
- If you are feeling stuck in a rut, it's time to go....fast. What are you still doing there!!??
- Go where you like the people and the vibe of the city. Every city has a vibe and people are different from town to town. This is important because this is who you will be and how you live.
- It's helpful if your destination fits your goals. Be sure to work that out before you go.
From Nowhere to Somewhere...and Getting There
Do you pack up and leave? Certainly it's not that easy. Well, it was for me. Yes, I tried out a couple of states, staying with family to see if I liked the area, but those weren't a fit for me at all so I winged it. I picked the first place on the road that struck my fancy. But how do you do it?
For me, just doing it was the trick. A new place was just the type of make-over I needed. The simple act of going for your goal is a self-esteem booster, and then when/if you complete it, it can transform you as a person. Sometimes you can't see the steps in front of you when you've taken all those steps before- meaning, when you live a small town and know everything and everybody, there are no new steps. You stay where you're at or move backwards, but moving onto something bigger than that small town, gives you all new steps to take- new possibilities and you're certain to see things you've never seen before, including things about yourself.
Train, plane, bus, automobile? Depends on your finances. Getting money saved up is essential. This includes money for transportation, unforeseen expenses, and a more costly way of life if you are moving to a bigger city. The more money you have saved, the less other type of planning necessary- it gives you some freedom.
What to expect
- expect the unknown, tinged with fear and a hint of excitement
- perhaps leaving on unfinished or bad terms with some family or friends
- leaving is the hardest part- actually getting out the door
- tough goodbyes
- feeling alone when you finally move or feeling small in a bigger city
- missing your hometown (rarely hopefully)
- getting lost in a new place...a lot
- things not going according to plan- revise your plans and be flexible
- a feeling of living in your own personal adventure
Plan B: Don't Go Back
After you've left and been away for a while, then you come back to visit, it puts things into perspective. You really get chance for reflection- how far you've come and how far you've been. You wonder how different your life would have been, perhaps you're more thankful for getting out.
When I visit my hometown, I can't believe who I was and who I am now- Who I was, was someone that everybody else knew and who I am now is someone that I know...me. I have a different perspective because there was a transition period when I first moved away...getting to know myself. The people I know that never left seem to be stuck in time- they are just the way I remember them. The Antique stores in that town are selling the same old stuff. Time seems to stand still in small towns.
There are some people who leave and come back, and believe it was the best decision. Getting away can have that effect as well. People see what they were missing and relive good memories they cherished. They move back and are happy. But most feel perfectly wonderful about getting away and the thought of going back is like moving backwards having come from a forward world.
Plan B: if you have to go back, just visit. Going back to visit can sometimes give you extra motivation for staying on track in your new city. Don't give up wherever you moved to, make it work if that's what you want. Moving back out of desperation can wreak havoc on your self esteem and you may never get out again.
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