My hometown is small. When I was growing up we had one stop light. When Dairy Queen came to town: it was a huge deal. Growing up in such a small town was wonderful. However, it had its drawbacks. I felt like I was the weird, quiet, determined, studious, girl in the power chair. It really isn’t a good feeling. I belonged nowhere. Most people didn’t take the time to get to know me. Those that did: they’re part of my chosen family today and a huge blessing. I was bullied a lot. I felt isolated and underestimated. I didn’t feel supported by teachers and authority figures at my school, mostly. It was tough being me as a teenager. I spent, many days, after school crying out my feelings and the events of my day while blasting my favorite music.
My favorite teacher…EVER told mom and I it would get better after high school: I spent a lot of time praying she was right. Thankfully, she was. My high school graduation is still the best day of my life. We had a huge party, which in my world means a meal of my favorite foods with lots of people I love. I cried when I went across the stage to thunderous applause. It’s hard to drive with tears coming down but can be done.
I found higher education liberating. I was a good student who was valued for who I was and who I’d be. A few years after high school graduation: I moved away from my hometown for school leaving my childhood home behind. I took pictures of my living space and the house, so I’d have them forever. I couldn’t leave that house without the pictures. Kirk was instrumental in the house being built and he and his friend’s crew built my addition when I needed an accessible living space. It was as if I was leaving him behind as well. The morning of the move when we finally pulled out of the driveway: I didn’t look back. He wouldn’t have wanted me to cry and be so emotional, so I wasn’t. I didn’t shed one tear.
I LOVE my four-year university. It felt like home from my first day on campus and still does. I learned who I was there and how to be myself there. I made life-long friends there. In some cases, they became part of my chosen family. Leaving my hometown was the best decision. I was finally able to shed who I was and begin on the journey of becoming who I was supposed to be. I’m still working on becoming my authentic self, and always will be. I haven’t been back to my high school since graduation. I haven’t been to a single reunion, either. I have no plans, to do either, honestly. I’m not interested in looking back. I am focused on looking and moving forward, always. That is not to say there aren’t discussions of making plans for a dinner with my chosen family I’ve known since high school. There definitely are, and that long overdue dinner is something I’m looking very forward to. There is no question leaving my hometown, and most of the people I’d known my whole life, was vital to thriving with my condition, and I will forever see moving away as one of the best decisions for myself.