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With Jess Willard
If you had asked me what I defined as a small town as three years ago, I would’ve had a completely different definition than I do now. I grew up in the area of Rockford, Ill. and considered my gated community of 2,500 people to be tiny. In comparison to the 150,000 plus citizens that surrounded, it might’ve been. However, my experiences in central/southern Illinois have taught me a lot.
I moved to Carlinville shortly after my 18th birthday to attend Blackburn College. About halfway through the four hour drive, I looked out my window to see miles of flat land. No buildings could be found. This was the first of many run-ins with culture shock that I would have.
After I finally settled into my friend’s house, I remember feeling like there was no way I was going to be able to stay in this town long. There was only one fast food joint that was open past midnight, I couldn’t imagine what people did for fun, and every time I ordered a pop, someone had to make a comment that it was called “soda.”
Another massive bout of culture shock I had was when my ex-fiance took me to his hometown of Pocahontas. I was amazed that there was a little less than 800 people who lived there, and one of the closest restaurants was a 13 minute drive.
However, I had a mind-opening moment after I asked him what he did for personal amusement. He went down a list of activities that I had never tried before including four-wheeling through his grandfather’s property.
He hoisted me up on the back of the machine and took me through acres of field and trees. This rush of the air against my face was well worth the mud that was caked in my hair. I felt my mind break away from the city roots that kept it from being comfortable with a new area.
When I returned to Carlinville, I noticed that the air was more breathable, and the land was beautiful. I’ve never seen grass so vibrantly colored nor have I seen the dazzling array of colors that a sunset could possess. I was mostly struck by the fact that there were more stars in the sky than I could have possibly imagined.
These were only a handful of the reasons why I moved back to Carlinville after living in Saint Louis for six months. I grew to love the way people greeted each other on the street by first name and how the local restaurants had food that I never received the opportunity to try back home like horseshoes.
Albeit, Carlinville is not a perfect town, but it is a place worth having pride in. It has its own unique quirks that keep me returning to the area and finding more reasons to fall in love. Take it from the city kid, small towns have their perks.