A big part of who you are is influenced by where you grew up. I was so fortunate to grow up in a small farm town where people worked hard and knew each other. In elementary and middle school, I could tell you every one of my classmates' names. My parents and my friends' parents put a strong emphasis on working hard, being kind, respecting others' boundaries, and always doing the right thing. Hanging out with friends included watching movies in the basement, going to awkward middle school dances (where I never turned down an invitation to dance because I knew how much courage it took someone to ask), and hanging out after school at the local sports complex playing basketball, tennis, football, soccer, and whatever other sport we could play depending on the equipment we had readily available. When I wasn't playing sports with my friends or having karaoke contests in the basement when we hung out, I was reading and writing and singing and acting out silly plays I'd written using Barbie dolls. Growing up in a small town where competition was encouraged, right alongside sportsmanship, taught my friends and me a lot about work ethic. The people we went to school with came from all different financial backgrounds, but there was one thing we had in common: everyone worked hard and respected each other.
My town was so small that I could tell people from my state where I lived and grew up and the overwhelming response would be "where's that?" But if I were to mention the town literally next door - a mile from my parents' home- they'd know it. It made my town feel special - like a hidden gem or undiscovered secret. People in my town stuck together. Even when there were disagreements in town about who should be mayor or should we allow a chain business to open on the highway, at the core of our being, we understood that people had their own views and opinions on the topic at hand for their own equally important - even if opposite - reasons.
Growing up in a small town off the map also taught me a lot about patience. I can recall a number of times where I'd been stuck behind a tractor while trying to get to school or a friend's house or the general store (yes, my town, to this day, still has a general store). I learned about the changing of the seasons based on what was growing on the farmland or about the passage of time by how high the corn grew. I learned that things don't just grow because you want them to grow. You have to get out there and plant those seeds and nurture them and put in time and effort so that you can eventually see the benefits of all that hard work when it comes time to harvest. These are valuable lessons about life. Things take time. You reap what you sow, so make sure what you sow is good and beneficial and that you worked hard to get it.