Speeding up to slow down

I always liked reading a lot when I was younger. One of my first memories was always asking my mom and dad to read me the ABCs book that I had as a toddler as my night time story because it was one the longer ones and I liked memorizing it. Or maybe it was because I just wanted to put off my bedtime longer, and I knew how to work the system even as a toddler. I guess it depends on who you ask on that one.

Point is, even from a younger age I still loved books. And I found my favorite author in a man who liked to write about couples, and always placed his couples in the same state: North Carolina. Nicholas Sparks may not be everyone’s cup of tea, specifically because he writes romance novels and these days, it’s a crime to read about gentlemen and think that maybe someday you might have your own romantic story. Because obviously real life is different from books, so prepare to be disappointed, right?

But I didn’t pick Sparks as my favorite author because of his romantic characters, I enjoy him because he always sets his stories somewhere in North Carolina. I love that he writes about the south like it’s a magical place where you can fall in love, right a wrong, and find yourself when you aren’t looking.

And it was also around the time I discovered him that I took my very last family vacation in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Gulf Shores, if you’ve never heard me say this before, has always felt like my home away from home. I love the sounds of waves crashing and seagulls begging for little kids to throw them pieces of bread. I love the beautiful blue of the gulf and the way God paints His sunrises and sunsets against the horizon. I love the feeling of the hot but soft and powdery sand under my feet and the pull of the waves as you speed through the water on your boogie-board. I love the smell of the salty air and the freshly caught seafood at the local restaurants. If I closed my eyes and think about those memories, I can pull them up and relive them, even though it’s been a couple years shy of a decade since they happened.

So it’s no surprise that visiting Gulf Shores and then discovering an author who writes about the south the exact way that I remember it, that I grew up knowing that at some point, I would live in the south. And I’m halfway there. More often than not, Texans don’t consider themselves a part of the entire “southern” category (and that’s true…Texan life is a category all on its own!), but I’m at least closer than I was two months ago.

I always remember my elementary school teachers telling me I was destined for a big life, something that “just had to match my big personality.” And while I know I don’t want to be stuck doing a what I think is an average job for the rest of my life, my personality isn’t quite as big anymore. I would enjoy a quiet evening at home reading or watching a movie more than I would spending a night out on the town. And that’s what I want my life to be: if I don’t get the huge country-style home I’ve been dreaming about, I would be overjoyed to spend my days in a little cottage house on a lake or a beach, being able to drink sweet tea and lemonade on the back porch swing as I watch the sunset with whoever I’m lucky enough to be married to. The simple life that people seem to forget about because city lights are more flashy.

After I graduated back in 2013, all I heard about was people leaving for colleges, and being excited to leave WB to be able to go out and actually do things. WB isn’t a small town by any means; in fact, we’re pretty big compared to some surrounding areas. But while some people claimed that it was too small and there was nothing to do, I always said it was too big with nothing to do. My nothing to do meant there wasn’t many places you could go and experience everything Mother Nature had to offer. WB was more or less surrounded by highways…the escape routes everyone jumped on if and when they could. I think that’s why for the last couple of years I enjoyed going to see my then boyfriend at the time, despite being two hours away. A town much smaller than mine, I loved the scenery all seasons of the year, and that it was small enough to where you knew almost everybody. It wasn’t hard to find something to do because every weekend some group would be at their usual bar, or some other group was having a house party. Those are the kinds of things I enjoy…ones where you don’t need to spend an entire weekend’s earnings on a night out. I know that life sure isn’t for everyone, but it was the life I enjoyed the most.

There’s no shortage of small towns here in the south, so I know that, when I eventually get to spread my wings a little further, I won’t have any problem finding one. Now that I’m old enough to be able to live out my own Nicholas Sparks story, whether I get my romantic storyline or not, I didn’t want to hesitate to be able to slow it down the way you do in the southern states. I moved out sooner than I was probably ready for, but that’s the beauty of the books I grew up reading: no one in his stories are ever really ready for their lives to change, it just happens that way.

Who knows, maybe someday I’ll move back north and live in a small town in Wisconsin, or I’ll settle down and find a small beach town in the south. My story is just starting out and I’m in no rush to get to the end yet.

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