I come from a small river town in southeast Missouri. It’s located in a county that is known for its beautiful river and it’s low income and high rate of meth and other drugs. Many of the people I went to school with that stayed in the dead-end town have succumb to a life of poverty and addiction. Then again, many of us got out and moved on to places that offered more. When I think about my roots, where I was born and raised, I think about the beauty of floating down the river on tubes and walking down back country gravel roads to a friends house and going swimming in the creek. I think about the county fair where I entered the sew with cotton competition in which I designed and made my own clothes and then modeled them for a prize. I thought I might be a true fashion designer some day, but honestly I hated sewing. I grew up in the same house and went to the same school my whole life and didn’t leave home until I was 21 and married. My life was simple and sweet in so many ways, but I always felt this trapped feeling, this need for more. I remember being around 10 years old, when the trains still passed through town and dreaming of jumping on one and never coming back. I wanted to move to a different town where no one knew me and start fresh. I was tired of the same boring life in the same small town.
I am older now and the fond memories and not so great memories intermingle to create a truth of what it means to truly grow up. How we perceive the world changes and so does the light in which we choose to remember certain aspects of our experience. I was a naive, small town girl who married too young and went from Missouri to Texas thinking life would be different and anything different had to be better. The truth is, it usually isn’t. We take what we know with us and the real change is within us, in how we choose to learn, grow and process through each experience. You can change the scenery but it doesn’t change what you know or who you are. I wish I had known this when I was young. I always had my happiness placed in the future…if I could just get out of this town, if I could just meet the right guy, if I could get the right career, buy the right house in the perfect neighborhood, have the family….as we age we realize none of those goals are the real answer to happiness.
We look to what we know, what we feel comfortable with so we seem to repeat aspects of life even if we don’t intend to. Some of us may work harder to hide where we come from, or fight against being like our parents but eventually little pieces come back to haunt us…the good and the bad. It is best to own who you are and where you come from and recognize the pieces within yourself. This not only helps us embrace the good parts and be proud of who we are but it also helps us accept the bad and heal. Growing up and finding happiness within ourselves takes time but it also takes courage. Be honest with what you see when you look at your past, even if it isn’t pretty.
My parents are not from Missouri they are both from West Palm Beach Florida and transplanted to the small Missouri town. I often felt cheated that I didn’t get raised in sunny Florida near the beach. I didn’t have the hillbilly accent that many expected me to have when I told them where I was from because my parents didn’t talk that way. I realized the stigma attached to being from that small town when people often looked surprised that I had all my teeth and could speak proper English. I laughed at these jokes but a part of me cringed at the thought. This made me somewhat ashamed of admitting where I was from when I was younger because people automatically assume you must be a little rough around the edges.
As we learn, travel, grow and work to find our own path in this world it is important to remember where you come from but also remember that it is only a piece of who you are. You have a choice in where to go from here. Keep the good pieces, accept the bad and resolve to always strive to be better. I have grown to love the small town grit within me and I think the truth is, over time it doesn’t really matter where you come from, we all end up a little rough around the edges. The real key to happiness is embracing who you are fully without apology.
With love, health and happiness