Growing up in a small town shapes you. My grandparents had a picture on their wall – from a trip visiting relatives in Minnesota – that said: “In a big city there is lots to see. In a small town there is lots to hear“. It kind of sums up my childhood.
This aspect of growing up in the countryside made and broke me: Everyone knew everyone and what they were up to. As a target for bullies and popularity alike I changed between being the object of love and hate, and the outcome was not always pretty. Mostly it made me determined to leave and ‘show them’. That I could become something. Other than this person who’s reputation preceded them.
So I did. I left my small town in Norway, did my degrees in England and Australia, before working in corporate America and starting a life as a wife and mother. Coming to the United States seemed like the perfect final destination. Growing up I watched the endless lights of Hollywood movies, and thought America is where people could be themselves and make a new life. The kind of life I craved.
But America is nothing like the movies. Sure there are the accents, the big signs and buildings, but the movies don’t show you the endless poverty people suffer under, the racism, sexism, the horrendous animal agriculture and all the pollution that follows. It doesn’t show you that Native Americans are still waiting for an apology for the genocide they experienced.
So I chased a dream to the end of the line. And now I miss my old town. I miss the connection with the people that sometimes is lacking in the big city. I miss the fresh air and some honesty. Even the kind that hurts you. Because sometimes the only way to grow is to feel the pain as you stretch.