To those with hometown roots and wandering souls, this love letter is for you.
It’s been 8 years since I packed up my 18-year-old self and left Eastern Oregon for college in Kansas. And its been a little over 2.5 years since I packed up again and moved to Washington D.C.
I was visiting home last week and spent a little time with some family friends who have a daughter interested in attending K-State next year, so I answered all of their questions and shared a lot about my (awesome) experience. Toward the end, the mother asked if there was anything that I regretted. I said that I regretted never going on a study abroad trip and that I should have gotten season football tickets my freshman year, but no, overall I did not regret anything (well maybe a few nights in Aggieville that I wouldn’t mind forgetting.)
But leaving Eastern Oregon to attend Kansas State was the best decision I ever made.
Maybe it was because of our conversation, or maybe it was because I was home at my county fair, but it really made me reflect a bit on that decision and where it has led me. Over the years I have always had a small army of steadfast support, but there are still things I wrestle with. I hang on to a bit of guilt that there things that I inevitably miss out on and that maintaining relationships from a far takes a bit of extra work. It’s hard to be in an unfamiliar place where you don’t know anyone and constantly have to put yourself out there. And I still get questions from people who innocently just don’t get it.
It also made me think about other small town kids with the itch to wander.
I want them to know that having hometown roots and a wandering soul is possible.
I love my hometown. It’s a place where family businesses still reign and people give you the 2-finger steering wheel wave when you pass them on the road. It’s a place where teachers have taught multiple generations of students and where the community revolves around the high school sports schedule. No matter how long I am away, there are Eastern Oregon sights, sounds, tastes and smells that are ingrained in my memory. Of course I miss it. It’s where my family is and will always be my home. But the world is a big, exciting place and if you are naturally curious like me, to not explore and experience it would be a crime. It’s hard to imagine that some of the people closest to me and some of my best memories wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t taken that leap of faith.
So to those with hometown roots and wandering souls, I want you to know…
You will cry more than you ever want to admit and you will want to give up many times. But you will eventually learn that that’s all OK. You are lucky to have people and places to miss and there is no shame in feeling sad or defeated from time to time. It reminds you that you are human.
Sometimes saying yes or no to things that come your way will be as easy as breathing and other times you will feel overwhelmed and challenged. Sometimes you are going to make the wrong decision, which you can always learn from, and sometimes it will take much longer than expected to reap the rewards of making the right decisions. And sometimes there is no right or wrong decision, so just choose one path and give it your honest best.
You are much braver and more resilient than you think.
You will be too much for some people. Those aren’t your people. Some of your people will be unexpected and some of your people will let you down. This is where you learn the art of giving and receiving grace. But I truly believe that you can meet great people wherever you go and that the further you wander the more interesting characters will fill your story and expose you to new things.
Sometimes you will embrace change and sometimes you’ll approach it kicking and screaming. Either way, it is inevitable, so rub some dirt on it and and figure out how you can respect the memories you have and find the positive in what is to come, because in my mind, the best is always yet to come.
As Logan Mize sings below, “You can lose a lot of things, but it’s hard to lose a hometown. Some things are bound to change but the sun still goes down just the same…”
Trust me, he’s right.
You will learn that you need to be more intentional and mindful of your words and time. You will also learn that a home and happiness are a state of mind that ultimately are up to you. Remember to respect that everyone is moving at their own pace and in their own direction, so what works you, might not work for them.
You will have a blast. I’m not saying that you can’t build an awesome life without ever wandering but exploring the world opens you up to new sights, sounds, tastes and smells that you can add alongside the hometown ones in your memory bank.
And most importantly, you can always come back home and the people who love you unconditionally will be there waiting for you.