I just moved out of my parents’ house last week and I find myself having so many different thoughts and feelings about a plethora of things: a change in routine, a change in environment and a change in life. But the response I have received about moving out has been an interesting one. I’ve lived in the same town all my life. I grew up on the west side then moved to the north side. Now I’m back where I started.

My town is one of great history and depth. An old mill town that thrived more than others during the early years of the Industrial Revolution, it was a major business hub that saw the best days for its citizens. However, like many other New England towns, the collapse of that revolution was not kind to it. All that’s left today are the preserved memories of those that remain of just how good life was in the Valley.

Today my town constantly flails at the cliff of bankruptcy, like so many others across the country. Education has seen better days, roads and bridges are in disrepair; vacant building after vacant building is enough to dash the hopes of any townie. I remember growing up through the school system thinking there has got to be more than this. Many told me to get out as soon as possible.

But here I am, 22 years old, and I couldn’t be happier still living in the town I grew up in.

Why?

I miserably watched all of my friends go off to school all over the country thinking they were sure to be out while I was “stuck” here.  So why NOW am I suddenly perfectly okay with staying here?

The older I get, the more I stick up for it. The older I get, the more proud I become. The older I get, the more I see the light at the end of the tunnel for the town’s struggle. For some reason, now things feel different. It feels like things really will turn around. I see elections with longtime incumbents become closer. I see entire old regimes stripped of their influence. I see new business really trying to make it here and making a difference in the culture of the town.

Why not us?

We’re a town nestled in a shopping hub with more development to come, homes being built or renovated every day, the city and beaches just 25 minutes in either direction. We could be great once again.

The world continues to grow and expand into impersonal, quick and easy interactions. But the small town feel is what speaks to me. I love that I can walk into a local, family owned shoe repair store where they know me by name because I am a lector at their church. Those are behaviors I think everyone wants sewn into their own fabric. Somewhere along the line, that culture lost its way.

I think now I’m most hopeful because I finally realize that I can make an impact even just by myself. I can support the local schools, attend town meetings, vote, and do business with local businesses. But imagine if this action came in numbers. Where would we be then?

So for those coming of age in college or recent graduates, I ask you to give it a chance. Give your hometown a chance. Give your state a chance to make it happen for you.

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