rootsWhen I moved to Boston for college and began meeting new people, one of the first questions asked was “Where are you from?”

When I proudly announced that I was from a small coastal town in Maine, people would always ask “Oh, do you know [insert name here]?” People often assume that because Maine is made up of small towns, we all must know each other. Growing up in a small town, it often feels like everyone knows everything about you. I know I certainly felt like that growing up – especially in high school. There are advantages to growing up in a small town. People are always willing to help a friend or neighbor, but one of the disadvantages is that gossip runs rampant, and it often feels like everyone knows your business. I know that at times I felt like everyone knew everything about me, and I couldn’t wait to move to the city where I could meet new people who wouldn’t already know everything there was to know about me – the good and the bad.

Moving to Boston, I found just that. People knew nothing about where I came from, who my grandmother or uncle or cousin was, or any aspect of my life. This was such a different feeling, after living in a small town all my life. I made several friends, most of whom grew up in big towns or cities. When asked how many students were in their graduating class, I was floored by their responses: 300, 500, 900. We didn’t even have 300 students in our whole high school! They would ask me questions about living in a small coastal Maine town, and I would regale them with stories of fishing, hunting, lobster and snowstorms. They were so intrigued by this style of living. Of course I was often asked the question, “Did you have an outhouse?” Oh, people’s common misconception that small town living meant no running water and peeing outdoors…

In any event, I relished my new found freedom and took advantage of every opportunity the city had to offer. Pizza or Chinese food delivered to your door at 1am, Red Sox and Celtics games, museums, theater, restaurants and shopping. I still visited home often, and enjoyed my time with my family, but at the end of the weekend I found myself anxious to return to my new life in the city. Several years went by. I met my now husband, Joe, graduated from college and took a job at a law firm. I continued to enjoy exploring the city, trying new restaurants and spending time with my friends, but my visits home were becoming more frequent. Though I loved living in the city, I found myself longing for clean air, clear starry skies, and the sound of birds chirping rather than horns honking and sirens blaring. I missed being surrounded by trees instead of buildings. As I started to think about settling down, getting married and starting a family of my own, I missed my family more than ever. And as I thought about where I wanted to raise a family, the sure and swift realization was that I missed my small town in Downeast Maine. Two years ago, I returned to Maine, settled in a town not far from the town in which I grew up, got married and started my own family.

I was fortunate that my career choice afforded me with job opportunities in both places. If that is not the case for you, perhaps adjust your career choice to adapt to the area in which you want to live. If you do not want to move to a different area and are comfortable where you are, I would encourage you to visit other places if you can, and just be open to meeting as many new and interesting people as possible. I believe that the more we learn about the world around us, the more we learn about ourselves. I will never regret my choice to leave home and move to the city. I met so many interesting people from all walks of life, some of whom are my best friends today. I learned so much about the world, the many different people in it, but mostly about myself. I grew as a person and gained valuable life experience.

So I guess the moral is – you can have both roots and wings. Don’t be afraid to try new experiences and if you have the opportunity, travel and meet as many new people as possible. Just don’t ever forget where you came from, and that you can always move home. To the place where everyone knows your name. And your business. A small town in a quiet little corner of Maine.