My Dearest Hometown,
It’s not you, it’s me. You see, I’ve always been a little restless. My head was in the clouds dreaming up my next adventure or conjuring up a story that allowed me to travel past your constricted dimensions. My head was always delved into a book that enabled me to explore lands beyond the coordinates you defined for me. For most you would have been sufficient, but for me, I did not see how it would work out long term. Maybe it was my curiosity that led me to leave, but I soon started to feel like you were a sweater that was a little too tight. My physicality outgrew you, my mind too fixated on a map of endless possibility. Maybe I’m ungrateful. Maybe I’m selfish. Maybe I just knew what the future could hold.
You were predictable, safe, warm. I could foresee the way the wind would blow and encompass me in its embrace. I had to move away, first to college and then to grad school, to see if we were meant for one another. I thought a long distance relationship would serve us well. I needed to go somewhere where I could walk into the local ShopRite with my hair in a tattered bun and my raggedy sweatshirt without having to exchange pleasantries with at least four people that are distant memories from high school. I needed to go somewhere that I wasn’t known for my hometown accolades or for serving the state, but just known for being ‘me’. I needed to go somewhere that I could start new traditions outside of stuffing my face with fried, chewy goodness twice a year at our annual hometown fests. I needed to find who I was underneath the layer that others had placed on me. With the notoriety came pressure. If I was away, I could fail in peace without the watchful eyes of those who looked up to me to make no mistakes. Away, I could learn to pick myself up and heal the scars without having you as my crutch.
I can’t deny that there was good in our deeply-rooted relationship. You built me up. You made me recognize my potential and always served as a comfort blanket. I knew that when the world chewed me up and spit me out, you were always there for a hearty embrace. I do miss the convenience of driving around the corner to my favorite Wawa, filling my cup with the perfect blend of actual coffee and French Vanilla creamer. I’ve become a snob in a sense that no coffee measures up to my beloved Wawa. I do miss the oceanic scent – the pure brew of salt water, fuming sand, and crisp funnel cake filling my nostrils at a twenty minute drive in the direction of the Atlantic Ocean. I miss the food. Period. The pizza slices as large as my head, the fried everything, apple cider doughnuts, the pork roll, egg, and cheese. I miss jogging the treelines at my high school with each turn to reveal a new facet of nature previously gone unrecognized. I sometimes miss the gentle hum of the casino, where you get sucked in a time warp, forgetting that outside world exists.
There are parts of you that I will always boast about. You taught me the value of appreciating those who are different than I because your diverse threads quilted us together. You taught me that karma always comes back around and those who once whispered falsehood would be silenced by my success. You made sure that I had the utmost confidence to face a world that wouldn’t always be kind. You showed me that heartbreak isn’t the end of the world, as I once thought it was, but yet the start of a new beginning. You revealed to me that awkward stages always have an end, but sometimes you have to hide the cringe-worthy evidence, only to discover them much later as you thanked God for growth. You showed me that some friendships last a lifetime and even when years pass between conversations, you can pick up in the exact same spot you left off. You also showed me that some people are solely in your life for a season, but everyone’s presence in life serves a purpose.
You gave me the responsibility of knowing that there were others that looked to me for advice, and with that, I had the keep pushing on, even in my moments of doubt. You gave me a story, a face, a name. You took a bright eyed girl with big hair and even bigger dreams and turned her into someone she could be proud of. Most importantly, you taught me to never settle. That’s why I’m writing you this letter.
I’m just not the same girl anymore. I wanted bright city lights, hustle and bustle, excitement, action. All you had to offer me was calm, cool, and safe. You made me feel stagnant, when the roots had already been planted for me to bloom. I’m not sure where life will take me, but I want you to know you will always possess a corner of my heart that causes my pulse to slow. When the work piles and I forget what it means to be alive, my little four-door knows where to take me. Before you know it, I will be back with a vanilla cone(with sprinkles) in my left hand, a book in my right, and my toes in the sand because that’s where I feel most myself.
I hope you understand. I’m sorry that it has come to this, but know that I am writing these words with a lingering of bittersweet on my tongue. I thank you for not changing. I thank you for allowing me to change. We may be going separate paths, but you will forever be my first love. You will always be my hometown, even when I build my own home and fill it with the same outpouring of love and comfort that you have given me. Thank you for being the foundation on which I built myself. I wish you all the best.