This feels a little weird that I’m writing this but the timing is right. Throughout my life I have hated you, felt suffocated by you, and wanted to leave you, and when I did finally leave it was one of the best days of my life. As I’ve grown, moved, and changed, I have realized that you did manage to teach me a few things. Here are a few of them.
Childhood Is Magical
I had an ideal childhood. My best friend lived 4 houses down from me and we were always at each other’s houses. Her mom is my second mom (Hi Kim) and I consider her and her sister to be my sisters. Our families went camping together. We spent summer days playing in the fort our dad’s built us. Our favorite game was ‘Spungle’ which was really just glorified hide-and-seek. We pretended to be on Survivor and Big Brother and filmed it on a shitty camera (we still have these videos too which are so cringey but so hilarious). Our parents were not helicopter parents by any means and we were allowed to play in the forest until Kim rang the cow bell to come in for dinner.
As I got older and became more educated about the world, I resented the fact that I lived in a small town. I wished I was exposed to more of the world at an earlier age. I wished that I lived somewhere bigger. I wish I lived somewhere that wasn’t so BORING.
Looking back now, I wouldn’t have been able to have had the childhood I did if I grew up in a city. My childhood took place in a magical bubble of innocence and safety and I realize now that I’m so lucky it was like that. Although I know that I don’t want to raise my kids in a small town, I know that I want to provide them with a childhood that is a fraction of the magical childhood that I had.
Small Town People Are Ride or Dies
As I get older, my appreciation for my small town friends and small-town people in general keeps growing. Get too drunk at a party? People will make sure you get home okay. Can’t find a ride home? Someone (even if you only ‘kinda’ know them) will drive you. It doesn’t matter if you call a friend at 3 am, chances are they will pick you up and get you home.
In Edmonton on the other hand, my friend Olivia and I got locked out of her apartment and needed a ride to my place. Our phones were nearly dead and we didn’t even have shoes on (we were also completely sober which makes this story worse). We texted multiple people and ended up ordering an uber because nobody would come drive us. “It’s too far”. Small town mentality is different. It doesn’t matter if it was an hour ride, you best believe if I got a phone call from someone who needed a ride, I would go and pick them up.
My hometown has a cult mentality. I don’t know if it is like this with other small towns but if I see people from my town in Edmonton, you have to say hi. I don’t know if it’s out of obligation or if it’s because you’re from the same town but you just have to say hi. As much as I get embarrassed hearing that 50 people were chanting ‘Whitecourt’ at the G-Eazy concert in Edmonton, I do appreciate that it is a family.
It Taught Me Independence
I moved out when I turned 18 to go to university. Although Edmonton was only two hours away, it was the change I had been waiting for for years. The majority of the people I have met that grew up in cities lived with their parents until they were a lot older. I completely get it, rent is hella expensive, but I am also happy that I moved out when I did. It taught me independence. Many people tell me that I “seem way older than 21” and I credit this to the fact that I learned how to do things myself at a younger age than many others.
Life Can Be Simple – And That’s Okay.
When I was 18 and moved to Edmonton to go to school, I dreaded coming back to Whitecourt. Most of the time I did go back to visit family I would just stay inside and cry. I couldn’t understand how people were happy living there and it made me so sad. I knew that my hometown couldn’t offer me the opportunities I needed for my future and I couldn’t understand why people didn’t want to do more with their lives than stay in Whitecourt.
I would cry to my mom and tell her all of the people here have so much potential and are stuck here and every time my mom would tell me “Not everyone wants to move to LA or New York Shayla. Some people are okay with a simple life.”
It took me a long time (years) before I came to a place where I stopped rolling my eyes when my mom and I had that same conversation for the thousandth time. I actually understood what she meant. Just because I don’t want to live there doesn’t mean that other people don’t like living there. I can live wherever I want and everyone else can live where they want too. I am in charge of my own destiny and so is everyone else. Just because something is right for me doesn’t mean it’s right for someone else.
It Taught Me How Friendships Should Be
I didn’t have a squad, I had a pack. A wolfpack to be more specific. It didn’t matter what we were doing but I remember those times fondly because everyone was present. We could go for an entire night without going on our phones. Doing that now is near impossible for most people. Maybe it’s because we didn’t have anything to do but hang out with each other or maybe it’s because social media wasn’t as big as it is now, we could actually hang out and be present. I miss that.
It Taught Me That Some Things Stay The Same
In the past 3.5 years since graduating high school, I have been lucky enough to travel a lot. Every single time I go back to Whitecourt I feel like I’ve changed, but the town hasn’t. This is hard. It’s kind of like wanting a person to change for you but they won’t. As you are having a glow up, they are staying stagnant. You are learning all of these new things, meeting all of these new people, and experiencing all of these amazing things and you go back and the town hasn’t changed and it often feels like the people haven’t changed either. It’s a hard pill to swallow but at the end of the day, you just need to focus on yourself. You are the person changing and growing and living your life. Don’t let where you live hold you back.
So Whitecourt, I guess you did manage to teach me a few things. As stunted as your energy may be if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Without you, I wouldn’t appreciate travel as much as I do. Without you, I wouldn’t have met people that are still a huge part of my life. So with a huge eye-roll I want to say thank you.
A girl who has big LA and NYC dreams but will always have a tiny piece of Whitecourt in her soul