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  • Feeling like an outsider while growing up in a small town hurts the most, because there's no avoiding it.

    In my large, suburban elementary schools, for example, I could hide. Recesses could be spent submerged in books, free time between library shelves, and class time could be spent being the teacher's pet. The best part? I would go onto the next grade and those who judged me would be gone, put in some other class out of sight and out of mind. There was only one girl who harassed me beyond the grade we had class together, and she moved a month into the start of third grade. Certainly, this situation wasn't ideal, but I knew it well and could function and thrive in it.

    Moving to Goshen was different.

    Yes, I made friends—for the first time. But with the friendships came the other side of small town living—where, in a town of under 900 people, everyone knows you, knows your family, knows your story. If they don't, chances are they are filling in the blanks with their own expectations of you. I want the small town living, but without the scrutiny. Without the reminder that I am different, that I didn't grow up here, that this is not entirely my "home." All of my high school friends are, to an extent, content to live in the area for possibly the rest of their lives—certainly, the Pioneer Valley's a nice place, but how are you not scratching at the opportunity to leave, to see things? And trust me when I say that for them, it's not about financial feasibility, access to resources—eight years in the Hilltowns stifled me so much that two weeks there nowadays is pushing my limits.

    And what they're missing, more than anything, is difference. They're missing the opportunity to meet other people with other experiences. To live somewhere dry, to live somewhere flat, to live somewhere where the mountains are so high you feel like they're skimming the surface of the ozone. And maybe I'm still just trying to avoid my "outsider"-ness by forcing myself into all these new places, but life is much more exciting this way, don't you think?
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