Pretty much my whole life I’ve wanted to get out of my hometown. But that’s normal, right? As a kid/teen you think you’re going to grow up and spread your wings, leave the nest, and make a life for yourself elsewhere. “Anywhere but here!” That has been my mindset for as long as I can remember. My mom moved us to this town when I was 5, and we were poor. We lived in a terrible apartment complex, full of other low-income families. I don’t know why, but for some reason I always felt like I was above the people I lived amongst. Not to be offensive to anyone, but I truly did have more potential than the majority of them. I’m more intelligent, capable. But my station in life, the lifestyle I was surrounded by, had an effect on my motivation. My drive for better. Growing up in poverty, surrounded by addicts and losers definitely doesn’t help anyone reach their potential. Well… it didn’t help ME, anyway. We lived in those apartments for over 7 years. My best friend from that period of time has since struggled with addictions her whole life. Some of my other friends from then have been in trouble with the law, in and out of jail, and have lost their kids, even lost their lives. I’m telling you, it was a bad way to live. I don’t know how I turned out differently, but I am so very thankful I did.
When I was 12, my mom got married and we moved to a much smaller town where our house was out in the country. I hated it. We had gotten out of my hometown, but in my opinion it was worse. I had no friends, and the community was so small, and our life had been so poor up until that point, that there was no way I was going to fit in or be accepted by anyone in my age group. Over time, I found a couple other outcasts to hang out with, but overall, those were probly some of the worst years of my youth.
When I was 16, there was some stuff going on at home I was not okay with, and I moved in with my dad in a bigger town, closer to Des Moines. Immediately I was happier. I found a crowd immediately. I had friends, things to do, opportunities, and teachers who recognized my potential rather than just my differences. I was able to set my own path. I could have done anything. But I didn’t. After high school I wanted to take a year off, then pursue art college. But during that year off, I fell back into the state from the environment in which I had been raised. No motivation. I hopped from dead-end job to dead-end job. I had a couple failed relationships. My friends fell away into their own lives. And I stagnated.
I ended up going back to my mom’s at age 20, and back to my hometown at 21. And I’ve been here ever since, with several more attempts at leaving. I got married to the wrong man. I had babies. He and I tried to move to North Carolina, just to get set up and basically robbed by the landlord we had agreed to rent from. I had to have my mom send me money so we could make it back home. I tried not only once, but twice to live near my newly-found biological father in Arkansas. But he was worse news than the place where I grew up. Drug addicted and abusive to his family. So right back home.
I got a divorce. I lost friends and even a boyfriend to accidents and health issues. I had a few small, short-lived jobs. I had several failed relationships, including a second failed marriage. Thankfully, I never fell into any addictions, but after all that I had been through I had severe social anxiety, clinical depression, I was unhealthy and overweight, and had such a low self-esteem and self-worth that I considered suicide often. I felt like my kids would be better off without my influence. I couldn’t keep a job due to my mental issues. I was poor and on welfare. I had fallen into the hole I never should have fallen into. I was better than that. I’m more intelligent than that.
Then, though for the wrong reasons, I was inspired to change. I started seeing a therapist often. I started telling her all of my fears and anxieties, all of my negative thoughts and self-worth issues. She helped me change my self-talk into more positive things. She helped me realize that though some of my fears were rational, they were improbable and that I needed to focus on more positive things in my life. I got a very small, part-time kennel cleaning job on weekends at a vet clinic, working alone (no co-workers). That job, over time, turned into working with the Veterinarian on Saturdays only, which then turned into a little more and a little more. Until finally though gradual comfort with my environment and intense therapy, I was able to keep a full-time job. That boosted my self-esteem, which enabled me to start a healthier lifestyle and lose weight. And everything has been uphill from there.
A couple of years ago, my ex and I were able to take the kids on a family vacation to Florida for our first trip to see the ocean. I absolutely fell in LOVE, from the bottom of my soul, with the ocean. And since then I have been on a path to get there. Back into the mindset of “getting out of here.” It’s true, I still don’t like this town that I’ve been living in all these years. One might argue that the things I don’t like in this town will be in any town. That is partially true. However, all the negative memories I have here, such as the apartments where I grew up, the people I’ve lost, the bad memories from failed relationships and friendships, the heartache and anxiety…. it’s all still here for me. I’ve been elsewhere, if even for brief periods of time, where I didn’t have those things in my shadow all the time. So I know it can be better for me elsewhere.
If I had left all of the times I’d had the opportunity, if I’d gone to North Carolina and stayed, or Arkansas and stayed, or Florida and stayed. Or even if I’d just stayed closer to Des Moines…. I wouldn’t have what I have now.
Today, I am married to the man of my dreams. Today, I have 3 amazing sons, and 3 amazing step-daughters, who I love very much. And we are planning to have more babies soon! Today, I am working full-time (more or less) and helping to support this family. My husband and I together have financial stability. Today, my health is great, my weight is stable, I no longer need therapy, and I’m certainly not suicidal. Sure, I have my bad days where I still struggle with the fact that I’m still in this damn town. But honestly, when it comes right down to the bottom of it all, I am thankful that I am still here. If I hadn’t stayed here, I would have nothing that I have today. And maybe someday, once the kids are grown, my husband and I can move somewhere else together. Because I’d never want to go anywhere without him. But as much as I have hated this town, it IS my home. It has taken me over 30 years to accept that, but there it is. Newton, Iowa is my home. It is the home to my mom, my family, and my currently very happy life. And for that, finally, I am grateful.