Trying to remain modern and hip in a small town is no easy task. Growing up in a part of Arizona that was at one time solely devoted to hay production provides no exception to this rule. As a teen, I hated living in this dry, dusty, yellow town where no one cared about the outside world or understood my grand cabin fever in any way. Many of these farm kids were quite content to stay here for the rest of their lives, working on dairy farms and selling dried grass to other farmers who somehow couldn’t make their own, but not me. I had big dreams. I was going to go to college and get out of town; to see the big majestic world in a way few of them could even imagine. To leave this place forever.
By the age of 17 I met some kindred spirits who shared my goals and were happy to talk about it any time, and it was because of them that when I graduated from High School I couldn’t bring myself to leave. I went to college at the state university and decided to study a social science that would allow me to understand the world by gaining knowledge of other languages and cultures that I had only ever imagined as a child. I believed that I was selling out. By staying in state and failing to expand my horizons, I wasn’t being true to myself. I wanted to reject my hometown and transform myself into someone much cooler and more exotic than I am. I could be from New York City. Or Boston. Even somewhere in Canada. Just not Arizona; anywhere but here.
Over the years, those friends I had stayed for forged their own paths, and most of them didn’t involve me. I was eventually left at the state University by myself, and it was then that I began to examine the state of my life. I had travelled overseas, I was fairly well educated, and I could easily have gone to another University further from home, but I decided to stay in Arizona and I had a distinct feeling that I wasn’t for my friends.
From my studies I learned that our origins are how history defines us. I began to realize over time that it was Arizona itself that kept me here. Maybe I am a little country, maybe I am a little small town. Maybe I am Arizona. Freckled with jagged peaks and valleys, constantly changing but sternly uncompromising, and strangely beautiful if caught at just the right time, I began to believe that regardless of how I feel about it Arizona is a part of me, and I can choose to embrace that or spend my life trying to reject it but regardless of my outlook the fact has become unavoidable.
I no longer wish to be from somewhere else, but have instead taken pride in my small town upbringing. I believe that everyone is in some small way defined by where they came from and these origins, however humble, are what make us interesting and unique. And besides, if someone said they’re from New York City they could easily be lying to sound cool, but who wants to be from Arizona?
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