Some of the darkest parts of my life were given room to seethe and grow because of my inescapable fear of getting stuck in my hometown pictured above). Here's how I put that thought to bed, and how you can too.
If you saw, my last post "Fear and Loathing in an Airplane" you'd be able to gather that I've left my hometown, hopefully for good. The mere idea of getting out on your own to the point where you've traversed state lines, gotten a job and moved to a place where your parents wouldn't have the time or energy to come and save you can be daunting. Any move from a place you don't feel welcome in is always good. In order to feel comfortable we must feel included, and to me Cleveland never included me. Ever since I popped out into this world, I've never felt right. And your definition of right is different from everyone else's and so on, but to be clear, right to me looked like the girls who tossed their hair, were chased by boys and lived the life of a One Tree Hill character. I was wrong. The charmed ones never took me in, but I somehow navigated the choppy waters of doomed youth.
To get over the hometown effect, that has plagued me for most of my life I had to put my shit in perspective.
I define the Hometown Effect as a series of feelings derived from a series of results you commonly see in your hometown:
1. Longing to escape for fear of getting stuck
2. Feeling left out because everyone else seems to be having an easier/better time than you despite all of the signs to the contrary.
3. Feeling like you're always on the edge due to your anxiety about the others around you,and finally
4. Having an almost blood-thirsty desire to leave as immediately as time allows.
Brecksville, Ohio a suburb of Cleveland, is the picture perfect example of provincial life. It's tree city U.S.A, the place you dream about raising your annoying little kids. The school system is rated as Blue Ribbon excellent with teachers and coaches worthy of praise, and nice families with nice cars and nice houses. There is no visible darkness in Brecksville. Everything from the fire station to main street (Ohio Route 21) is cut straight from a Thomas Kincade painting you'd find in a yard sale. The people wave and the kids laugh and play on the playground by the renovated and modern recreation center. Things are safe and quiet. Cars are parked in driveways by 10P.M. and lights are out before 11. The teenagers who long to stay out late are rarely out later than midnight anyway. Finding paradise or Shangri-La is not easy in a small town. Things get in the way.
There is no shortage of kind and genuine individuals in towns like these. They make up the heartland of America, they contribute greatly to society. People thrive in these places, make lives, families, good times and great achievements.
Whatever way you look at any small town like this, one thing is clear in my perspective: There is nothing dangerous or exciting about it. It is, in all actuality a living, breathing reminder that somewhere out there, people are getting into more trouble, more
and more life defining things than you.
Small towns cripple. The dream of the white picket fence is fine for some, but for me it never much made sense. I started noticing I was different so I took to doing anything I could to increase the gap between me and everyone else. I started writing and singing, making music and art. Those things don't require perfection. The white picket fence is bullshit.
I guarantee you, behind every 400, 000 dollar house with a freshly cut yard and new flower pots there is turmoil, sadness and a great deal of hardship that some may never see or possibly understand.
Outside of these little towns people's pain has a way of making it to the surface, but in these small towns it's not okay to bleed unless it's the right paint color to match your new house. Little towns have a way of stifling those who see the world with one eye more open than the other. It may sound ungrateful or egregious, but it's my truth. These things happen everywhere. People get toyed with and tossed around everywhere, even in the places you don't look. I always felt like that. Like my vision was somehow altered or skewed due to my transient background or having parents in the entertainment industry, or just having a little perspective. Time moves quickly around those who know what's going on in the world. They feel more pain, because they know too much. They see things for what they are. There is nothing wrong with loving a small town or thriving in it. All walks of life, all types of people have a place on this earth, this is not a brutal attack of small town life, it's an exposing of it. What price do we pay to keep up appearances? What standards are set for us when we move to a town like Brecksville? The pressure of keeping up with whatever they are can be debilitating, isolating and imprisoning.
So with all of this in mind, I set out to change my surroundings. The Small Town Effect would not stifle me. It wouldn't take me alive. I fought and clawed and fucked up and created something for myself, a future. Shangri-La is no farther away than you make it. Despite the obstacles and the ridiculous amount of time I spent hating myself, I now sit on the 11th Floor of a gleaming office building towering over one of Manhattan's most expensive districts, writing for a living.
The Hometown Effect does not have to define you. The mold does not change, but it doesn't mean you have to fill it. It's essential to realize that the person they want you to be may not coincide with who you already are. And no little town can make me apologize for who I am no matter how pretty and perfect it is.