This lyric from Dolly Parton’s song, Wildflowers, has become my personal mantra as I prepare for my move to the tiny but charming town of Archbold, Ohio, population: 4,346.
Growing up, most kids dream of escaping their small towns and moving to a big city, or transplanting themselves along the east or west coast. One hardly thinks of a small midwestern town as an adventure. But it actually is.
In September of 2016 I had one of those life-altering experiences. The kind of experiences that separate your life into before and after–I got engaged. After reveling in the pure bliss of our promise to each other, my fiancé and I began making plans–our first order of business being where we would live. My fiancé’s love of his hometown in Archbold, Ohio runs deep, and my love of him runs deep, so when he stated his desire to stay in Archbold I couldn’t help but say, “okay.” And so the moving plans began.
Here’s the thing about small towns. 1) Anonymity does not exist. 2) They challenge your creativity. And 3) they give you permission to inhale deeply. Some take issue with everyone knowing their business and not being able to fade into a crowd.
However, for me, I see the opportunity to make friends. Not just the we attend the same workout class friends, but the friends that become family. They know when you are in the thick of hard times and they’re right there to sit with you.
Throughout our years of dating I’ve made countless trips to Archbold to visit my now fiancé, and have witnessed amazing acts of friendship that surpass any kind of friendship I have ever experienced outside of my own family. I’ve watched as neighbors, business owners, and friends have rallied together to help pay for a friend’s brain cancer treatment–thousands of dollars donated to a young man’s family who never asked for a penny.
I’ve seen friends come home from tours in Iraq, distraught over deaths and total disasters they lived through, only to receive total support and a safe place to land provided by life long friends who continually choose to stay active in each other’s life, even when their friendship looks a little different. These are the kinds of friendships I want in my life.
I am most excited for how living in a small town will push my creativity. In larger cities culture, art, and diverse people groups surround you. In smaller towns these eclectic elements are not as accessible. As a writer, I look forward to doing a deep dive. Learning the stories behind the local businesses that allow this little town to thrive.
Meeting the families behind the mega farms that provide food to an entire nation. Driving down country roads, and winding through woods that were once all swamplands. I find it impossible not to find inspiration from these things, and I know there is so much more to discover as long as I stay curious.
I look forward to the rhythm that comes with small town life. To move from a bustling city to a town where I get to set my pace. To have room to grow wild. And “when a flower grows wild, it can always survive.” (Dolly Parton) This is my adventure–my biggest adventure yet. Yes I will survive, but I will also thrive.