As some of you may know, there has been a lot of turmoil in my hometown over the past few weeks, everything from fatal car wrecks, teenage suicides, a domestic violence turned murder/suicide, & a teenager shooting his grandfather (thankfully not fatally). Despite having my own blog I try to maintain a bit of anonymity because the world really is a scary place, but I will say that one of these incidents hit very close to home for me & my family & thus these past few weeks have not been an easy time for us.
For those of you who don’t know me in real life, a bit of context may be needed. To clarify, I grew up in a very small town in central Virginia, the kind of place with one elementary school, one middle school, one high school (with about 700 students total), & literally a handful of stoplights in the whole county. It’s the kind of place with more churches & hunting clubs than restaurants or places of business. We didn’t even have 911 until I was at least 16 or 17. And, no, I am not making that up!
Anyway, some people from my hometown, maybe even some of my own family, will probably not like this post, but I feel like I have to write it for my own sanity. I apologize in advance to anyone I offend; please know I’m just expressing my own emotions at this difficult time.
Every time something violent happens in my hometown, there is always an outcry in the community about how unexpected & unaccountable it is that such a thing could happen in our “peaceful little town.” And every time, I have to ask myself why people are surprised at these things because I am not. As I’ve mentioned several times before on this blog, Agatha Christie was so accurate when she observed (through her character Miss Marple) that every kind of evil in the world is just as easily found in the smallest village as it is anywhere else in the world. I’m not surprised when violent things happen in my hometown because I could easily tell you all kinds of scandals that have happened there just in my lifetime. Small towns aren’t any more wholesome or peaceful than anywhere else in the world. Anyone who thinks so is just kidding themselves as far as I’m concerned.
Small towns are a great place to live if you go with the flow, don’t buck traditions, don’t ask a lot of questions, & don’t mind everyone knowing your business before even you do. But I’m not that kind of person, I never really was, & I never could be even if I wanted to be. My brain just isn’t wired that way, so I guess it’s no surprise that I never really fit in there & probably never could. To those of you who are wired more like I am but manage to live in my hometown, or the thousands of small towns like it, kudos to you because I’d have lost my sanity a long time ago. You’re clearly much stronger than I.
I’ll be the first to admit that growing up I didn’t give a lot of thought to leaving my hometown. I was so sheltered that it wasn’t till I was in high school & started going to band competitions in other parts of the state that I began to realize what a different world I was living in than “everyone else.” And even then I wasn’t really fired up about leaving like so many of my classmates were. How ironic then that so many others who were desperate to get away are exactly the ones still living there now with no real plans of leaving while I on the other hand left for college & basically never looked back . . .
Anyway, it’s at times like these that I’m especially glad that my husband & I managed to escape our hometown & have made every effort to ensure that we never end up back there. I’m probably a horrible person for thinking this, much less admitting it, but in all seriousness one of my greatest fears in life is that for some reason or another I will end up living there again someday.
I don’t know how to admit these things without sounding like I hated my childhood or that I have zero affection for my family & my hometown. None of those things could be further from the truth. However, I can’t help but want something different for my own future children. It’s not that I resent my parents for raising me how & where they did because I don’t. I just want my kids to experience a different way of life. I want them to grow up around kids from all kinds of cultures. I want them to attend schools that give them more options than I had. I want them to grow up somewhere that they don’t have to leave in order to get a decent job that pays enough that they can support themselves & their families & pay off any student loans they may have. Are these things too much to ask? I don’t think so.
I’m not naïve enough to think that where I live now is perfect or that anywhere in the world is. There is certainly no utopia on this planet, & I know that no matter where I end up raising my kids someday they won’t be immune to violence, gossip, bullying, teenage pregnancy, poverty, closed-mindedness, or any of the negative things that I associate so strongly with my hometown. The world is far from perfect & is indeed often a scary, violent place. But every fiber of my being tells me that where I am now is where I need to be & will give me a better shot at raising my children the way I see best.
I’ve probably already offended enough people, so I might as well go ahead & offend a few more . . . The other thing that drives me batty about how my hometown reacts to such turbulent events as we’ve recently experienced is the incessant call to prayer. I’m not saying people shouldn’t pray; I’m just saying maybe our focus should be on putting some actions behind those prayers. Furthermore, maybe we should start asking ourselves the difficult questions that no one wants to ask, like why our teenage pregnancy & poverty rates are through the roof, even for the central VA area. Maybe we need to start focusing on ways to reduce these phenomena because whether we like it or not they are statistically linked to a lot of really negative outcomes, including violence. Additionally, maybe it’s time that we figure out why race relations in our town are still far from acceptable. I know I can’t be the only one who’s noticed that.
To those of you who still live in my hometown & are trying to make a positive difference, my proverbial hat is off to you. There is a part of me that feels like a traitor for being so negative about my hometown, yet I can’t help but see it as a place full of unfulfilled dreams, broken hearts, & stagnancy. Please know that I don’t think everyone who lives there is a waste of space & miserable. I just know that I couldn’t be happy there anymore. And I know that having prayer vigils isn’t going to solve any of our problems; it’s just going to make us feel better momentarily . . . until the next tragedy hits us.
Ok, that’s it for today. I hope that you’ll forgive me for my blasphemy, but I know I can’t be the only one feeling this way.
P.S. If I really didn’t care about my hometown, I wouldn’t have bothered to write this post.