I live in a small town that is all at once clinging to its Stars Hollow-esque roots and dreaming of one day being a city somewhere between Center City, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
I thought this as I toured my college for the first time, realizing for the first and certainly not the last time that I will not escape a certain type of residency despite my whole-hearted childhood dreams turned pleas to find myself in Times Square looking up at the skyscrapers and the lights above and around me, feeling at home for what I imagined would be the first time. I believed this was the first step on the road to the "real" first step when maybe, it was the first step on the road to where I really wanted to be.
And I realized it a thousand times over as I toured my college again and again, eventually moving in a year and a half later - all of my most important belongings packed into the trunks of two cars and gradually carried into a smaller-than-I-realized dorm room, one tiny box adorned with one tiny note from my father (a note I'd cry while reading, realizing for the first time I'd really left home; my roommate across the room wondering just what she'd gotten herself into by agreeing to live with me).
I realized it as I explored the town with my new friends two and a half years ago, walking into stores and boutiques and restaurants, feeling grown up when I was oh-so-far from it; as I noticed the street carts and the architecture and the people - all reminiscent of a city I thought I'd find myself in one day.
I realized it again tonight, sitting in a class that is teaching me what I will do for the rest of my life; and this time I realized it differently.
I realized it as a fact of not just what my town is, but of who I am. I've spent my life dreaming of being someone bigger, someone who fits into a city and who's life mirrors what a city is.
When I was, for the first time in my life, able to actively decide where I would live, I chose not a city, but a town that dreamt of being a city. With a city around the corner, its welcoming arms open to me for the next four years, I instead chose the small town with its decades-old buildings and college-built community.
I think we choose the places that define us.
All my life I ached for the city - I dreamt of it, and longed for the days spent exploring its twisting roads and skyscrapers reaching for the sky. I thought I would one day find my place in the city - that it was where I belonged, and where I would find myself.
But when the time came to choose that for myself, I actively refused it. I turned away from it even with the opportunity staring me down; and instead I found that I was immersing myself in small-town America, a town that is, at most, reminiscent of Manayunk and New Hope and at least, a fictional storybook setting where "everyone knows your name".
I chose the place that was me, even as I firmly believed that I was someone else entirely, and managed to convince everyone around me of that belief.
I always dreamt of being someone big - of surrounding myself with big people and big buildings. I dreamt of the anonymity that came with that bigness, and convinced myself I would one day be immersed in it.
Instead, I find myself here, wanting nothing more than to stay in a place like this forever.
I live in a town that dreams of being a city;
but when push comes to shove, it rejects high-reaching buildings and hotels. It finds its home in well-known bars and restaurants that choose to cater to the not-so-well-known. It burrows itself into small corners, blocks that would make New York City laugh, and privately owned boutiques.
When it comes down to it, I live in a town that is exactly what and where it should be.
We choose the people and places and things that define us. We surround ourselves with definitions of who we are: through our friends, our homes, our favorite books and that movie we could watch a thousand times.
No matter what we tell ourselves, we choose for ourselves what and where and who we want to be. One day, you will wake up and find yourself exactly where you need to be without your ever realizing you were making your way there all along.