Taylor Vidmar

My Small-Town Upbringing Isn’t Holding Me Back — It’s The Reason I’ll Succeed

My small town has prepared me to handle the unknown. That's exactly why I have to leave.

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When I step outside my front door, I don’t see much. A cornfield to my right, white-picket-fence-encased houses to my left. If I walk a little farther, I can see a church, the local library, the post office, and the bank, all smushed together on the main street hub. I feel clear, crisp air and hear nothing but my own thoughts, yet I still find myself longing for something more: more opportunities than those I’ve already taken advantage of, more people than the 1,200 who have surrounded me my entire life.

I should say: I love my hometown, small though it may be. I love that it’s quiet and calm. I love that my friends all live within walking distance of my house. I love that people stop me everywhere I go to ask me how school is going. I love that the single biggest piece of infrastructure here is a towering grain elevator that overlooks the entire town. From the close camaraderie of family and neighbors to the safe environment absent of distraction, my small-town upbringing has molded me into who I am, and I’m grateful to come from here.

But I am missing something. There is an absence of energy, frenzy, and the anticipation that something fantastic could happen at any given moment — all things I long for in my life. Since I was young, I’ve dreamed of escaping my small hometown to a place where I can discover these intense feelings: a crowded, buzzing city where, most importantly, I can fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a writer. I’ve yearned to live in a place where I can get lost exploring restaurants, shops, museums, and theaters. I have a strong hunger to explore.

Taylor Vidmar

I’ve always known that college would be my best bet to make it to my ideal city. In college, I’ll finally be able to dedicate myself to studying film, creative writing, and all the things I’ve pined after for so long. I’ll be able to join clubs, write for school publications, and do theater. I’ll truly be able to gain the education and training necessary to succeed as a screenwriter, something I want more than anything.

I have always kept these aspirations secret. I was embarrassed to admit my dreams because in my small town, some ambitions are just too ambitious. On one occasion, I mentioned to a mentor whom I greatly trust that I was applying to an out-of-state school. When I told her the school's location, she looked at me as if I were a child and sighed. The consternation of her tone was palpable and her eyes seemed to roll all the way around in their sockets.

“Good luck with that,” she muttered, much less than halfheartedly. I felt defeated and frustrated, like she had clipped my wings and sent me hurtling to the ground.

Taylor Vidmar

She very clearly thought my decision was crazy because most people don’t leave my hometown. It’s safe here. People know what to expect. We know that there will always be fried chicken at the local diner on Thursdays, football games on Fridays, and church on Sundays. Nobody knows what lies in store in a far-off city. Comfort of the known battles the fear of the unknown.

Her disapproval was especially disheartening, however, because I believe that my small town has actually prepared me to handle the unknown. I've learned the value of community and the simple things in life here. But I've also learned that taking great risks is the only way to achieve great rewards, and I know that I’m ready to take the most ambitious of risks.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but writing opportunities are not abundant where I live. In fact, with the exception of the Internet, they’re practically nonexistent. I’m leaving because I’m ready to follow my biggest dreams. I’m leaving because I’d be doing myself a disservice if I stayed in a place where I cannot achieve these dreams. I’m leaving because I have to.

I’ve been called crazy and even stupid for wanting to leave my safe hometown, and I cannot say I completely disagree. If leaping out of my comfort zone and daring the world to challenge me is crazy, then so be it. But I know that I wouldn’t be able to be on this path if it weren’t for my upbringing. My hometown has made me many things, but most importantly, it made me stupidly ambitious.