I grew up in a small town in the mountains of Colorado. Now, when I say small, I mean that there were about 800-850 people. No stoplights, no fast food, you get the idea. My mother ran a very popular restaurant in town and was even the mayor for two years – the first woman mayor the town had ever seen – so everyone knew me. A lot of the people I started preschool or kindergarten with graduated high school with me.
When it came time to choose where to go to college, I had one distance in mind – far away. I wanted out of that small town and Colorado entirely! I could not graduate soon enough. I wanted to go where no one knew me. I wanted to go where I could be a new person. After weighing several East Coast options, I settled on The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. I was too scared to go to New York, but Washington really suited me. I’d fallen in love with it on a trip I took in middle school. I spent my junior year Spring Break there and then a month that summer; I was in love. I couldn’t wait to start my new adventure!
When I was 18, I packed as much as I could into my airline luggage allowance and said goodbye to my BFF and my mom at the airport. I moved from my town of ~850 into a dorm that housed 1,000 freshman. No one knew me! To say it was a culture shock would be an understatement. I found my footing and college was a fantastic experience. I loved being in D.C. with easy access to world-class museums, galleries and restaurants. I took in as much as I could.
My family had left Colorado after I set off, so I didn’t really have somewhere to go back to. So, after graduation, I decided to stick around D.C. I found a job, and then another and another. Over the years I bounced all around the suburbs of the city.
I visited Colorado only a handful of times in college. I started to feel a longing to return if even for a short visit. I wanted to see the house I grew up in, walk those streets again. Finances kept those visits to a much lower frequency than I would have liked. Years later, when I was dating my now-husband, I took him to Colorado to see where I grew up. It became an annual trip to meet up with my mom and spend the 4th of July. I noticed that every time we went, it became harder and harder to leave. The same familiar faces were there. Now I liked that everyone knew me and felt a bit sad if they didn’t recognize me. Then my best friend moved back to Colorado from D.C. and it got even harder.
When I met my husband he was in the Army and stationed in Savannah, GA. I lived there briefly before our engagement and his second deployment, but we’d decided that after he got back from the Middle East and got out of the Army that we’d live in the D.C. area. As planned, he moved to D.C., we were married, and we bought a condo in Vienna, VA, about 15 miles west of D.C. We settled in, started our life, and continued to visit Colorado. Despite the wonderful group of friends I’d made and what I refer to as my “mama tribe,” the pull to the mountains was just too great. When I had my daughter, I knew I wanted her to grow up in Colorado.
After considering it for a few years and verifying that I could keep my current position at my company, in 2014 we made the move. We’ve been back in Colorado for nearly two years now and while no cross-country move is without some hiccups, we all really like our new home. There was some compromise; my husband felt the mountains would make for a horrible commute for him so we live in the suburbs of Denver. But we are as close to the mountains as we could get and still be in the suburbs. I can see the mountains from my backyard.
I get up to my hometown as often as I can. It hasn’t changed much, but since it is a National historic district, you wouldn’t expect it to. I sometimes miss D.C. and its craziness. I really miss my friends and my mamas, but I am building new relationships here, as well as nurturing many old ones. It took over 20 years to learn to appreciate how growing up in a small town shaped me and how much the mountains feed my soul, but I am back where I belong and I know I am home.