Laurel is a vibrant, growing city, where small businesses and groups of regular people, who love to dream, have bonded together in the spirit of community and are dedicated to restoring Laurel to her original glory. But around five years ago, our Home Town was a lot different.
If you would’ve asked me what I wanted to be when I graduated from high school or college, I would have said, “Anything! Just don’t make me move back to Laurel.”
I yearned for the bright, crowded streets of New York, bursting with opportunity for young talent; the willow-lined paths of Charleston, full of sweet tea and social charm or any city with a Chili’s and a Super Target. “Get me out of this hometown box of torture” is probably something I’d be caught saying in the Sonic parking lot on a Friday night.
A little dramatic, you think? Absolutely.
It’s a belief that infests teenagers and college students. That if you don’t run away as fast as you can from your hometown, you’ll never leave it or be successful.
There is some truth to the stigma that small towns don’t offer many opportunities for creatives or fast-paced millennials that hold infinite information at their fingertips. Everyone has experienced or knows someone with a negative connotation of small-town life, no matter where your roots may lie. But we have the ability to change that.
In Laurel’s case, the main obstacle was showing other people how much she had to offer instead of focusing on how much she lacked. As Erin Napier says, “Laurel’s like the pretty girl who doesn’t know she’s pretty.”
I’m here to confess to the world that moving back to my home town after college was the best thing that has ever happened to me and here’s why.
1. I’ve had the chance to recreate what #iliveinlaurel means to me.
2. It all begins with perspective …
And finding the beauty in what it’s front of you. No matter where you are – big city or small town.
3. It’s affordable to live here as a young adult, which is super important.
I can live in a comfortable house and enjoy dining out with my friends on a regular basis.
4. There are creatives and inspiration at every turn.
5. It’s not hard to build a side-hustle.
Stores across downtown offer young and experienced artists a place to showcase their work and locals are beyond supportive of the arts in Laurel.
6. There are a plethora of professional and personal mentors that genuinely care about your well-being and growth.
Community is a really important thing here.
7. Most importantly, my hometown is open-minded.
She stands with open arms for the opportunity to grow from its people’s ideas and values.
My favorite piece of advice came from one of my friends, Kaypounyers Maye at the University of Mississippi days before graduation. He told me, “The best part about leaving the place you love, is being able to come back and share everything you’ve learned while you were away.”
While I had moved away from Laurel for a couple of years, learned so much about myself and felt growth like I’d never known before… Laurel did too.
Every time I came home, a new business had popped up, or a mural had been painted.
People would talk about it and become excited. Then HGTV Home Town happened, and the rest is history.
Although this didn’t start with me, I’m choosing to dive in deep now. I want to disprove the stereotype about those who come home because they couldn’t make it in the real world.
I came home because my hometown offered me the entire world and something even better – a place to grow and try new things. I’m working every day to live a life and create the reality I’ve always dreamed of in the place that raised me. I’m choosing to give back to the city and its people that have given me so much.
Don’t get me wrong, I still wish Laurel had a Super Target. Except now I know it’s not the size of the town that makes a place home or fertile with opportunity. It’s the people that help her grow strong and the life they bring back to her once they leave.
Laurel isn’t done growing and thankfully, neither am I.