If you grew up in a small town, chances are at some point in time, you couldn’t wait to leave.
My friends and I all had grandiose plans to get out into the world – a world where the majority of the restaurants did not have drive through, department stores outnumbered dollar stores and wine was available for purchase at the grocery store.
My personal plan was to get a journalism degree and head straight to the offices of Cosmopolitan in New York City.
That did not happen.
Though I did, like many of my friends, finally make my escape from what we considered southern small town hell among a church on every corner.
And slowly but surely, now in our early 30s, we are trickling home. I went to a classmate’s wedding last month and was surprised to see just how many of us had taken up residence in the old hometown – by choice.
Some went out and found their success in big cities, but returned to raise their kids, who will inevitably also want out. Others came back after failed happily ever afters. And some just never sought the opportunity to leave in the first place.
I arrived at the Minden Press-Herald June 1, 2000, scared as hell to start a job for which I felt completely ill-qualified. I lacked any educational pedigree (aka a degree), my resume only boasting a few blue ribbon wins for essay contests and an editor’s title over a nationally recognized high school yearbook.
I quickly learned the ins and outs of reporting for a community newspaper and this “job” made me much of what I am today.
My last day at the Press-Herald was Dec. 31, 2007, while I followed a man who was pursuing his dream.
I did a few stints at larger papers. I’ve seen more dead bodies than I care to count, interviewed a few presidential candidates, schmoozed with Congressmen and been called out by a mayor in more than one city council meeting.
Two divorces and a half-dozen career change attempts (and a few sessions with a therapist) later, I am home – not to rebuild my life from failure but to capitalize on the lessons I’ve learned since I left six years ago.
The ship of journalism is sinking quickly, and I need that “pedigree” if I want to abandon it before it goes completely under.
The community and its newspaper have welcomed me back with open arms. I am now embracing covering events involving the sashes of beauty queens rather than the yellow tape of crime scenes.