The first time my horizon expanded, my family had gone to the Texas’ panhandle, Borger, to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins. Who knows how many times I’d gone before I started to notice my surroundings, but one summer, climbing out of the car and into the dry heat and dust and smelling the wonderful stench that is unique to oil processing plants--something like mold and cowcrap and grease--it hit me: the differences.
My Texan family all spoke with accents, saying “Y’all,” calling every kind of soda a “Coke,” and forcing me to ask questions like, “What the hell is a coney?” (It’s a chili dog.) Instead of mountains in the west, I saw dust, rocks, barren bushes, and dilapidated barns. There was no Blockbuster, but a Hastings, which I loved more than my own video stores, as they had books and music, too. Dairy Queens were almost non-existent, but if you wanted a Dairy King, you need only find a town of half a dozen houses. There’d be no gas station, but a Dairy King was ready and waiting to serve. (As far as I recall, we never actually went to one, either.)
As kids, we grow up thinking that what we see on a daily basis is all the world is, the things we know. We hear about other places and times and cultures and sights, but they aren’t real. They’re words on a page, a picture online, a scene in a movie. It’s not until you’re there, in someplace new, out of your element and--often--a bit scared that you realize there is more out there. More than you ever thought, imagined, or fully understood.
So visit those hometown places that you “keep meaning to go see.” Experience the next town over, the next county over, the next state, country, however far you can go to expand your horizon. Go out. Live.
I was always different from the kids around me, which didn't help matters at all. I had an imagination that ran a bit too wild for most people's liking, and I was always wondering about things that kindly southern folk weren't supposed to question. There had to be a place I fit in, and Tennessee certainly wasn't it.
So, when my sister moved to Atlanta, Georgia, I saw my ticket out of small town life. Money doesn't go as far in the big city, so I moved into a crummy apartment and got myself a job at a major corporation. Life was different, that's for sure. Instead of taking long walks in the woods, I was sitting in an hour of traffic one way getting to work. And instead of watching deer outside my window, I was calling my sister at 2am to come kill the giant cockroach that scampered across my living room floor. I soon learned that I wanted to be where the action was, but not that kind of action.
Soon, I was back in Tennessee. During this homecoming, I took the time to realize what I wanted out of life. I did want to be where the action was...the movies, art, and music I loved so much. But I didn't want to be smothered by the city I lived in, feeling like I was lost in it.
Then I learned that a place can't deliver what you want until you seek it out for yourself. It's not going to just throw itself at you. So, that's what I spent the rest of my time doing: seeking out the life I wanted in the place I already lived. And I learned that downtown Knoxville is pretty amazing. There's a great folk/bluegrass music scene, rampant alley art, and tons of festivals and cool places to eat/hang.
And when I moved to back to Georgia...Savannah this time...I didn't come as a girl desperate to leave something behind. I came as a girl who had so much to take with her. All thanks to East Tennessee.