With all my love,

With all my love,

Since childhood, it has been my mission to pack up and leave this little town as soon as possible. I never intended to dawdle, to cling to nostalgia like a child to a tattered teddy bear. I decided early in life that I’d use university as my out and pick a school far enough from home that I’d need a plane to get back. So, naturally, in April I decided to spend my next four years of education in the foreign, adventurous city of…Madison, WI. Yes, you read that right.

I can’t offer the connecting pieces as to how this happened, really. I don’t believe it was something big or easily identifiable that changed my path. Instead, I think it was a progression of small things which brought me to the realization that I might not want to cut all ties with this town with such finality.

As much as I’ve struggled against the binds of growing up in Stoughton, I don’t hold much resentment for my childhood here. Rather, as I sit here, less than a month out from my graduation, I look back on my childhood fondly and with an aching nostalgia that I promised myself I would never hold for this little town. What a hypocrite I’ve become.

If there’s anything I’ve learned by now, it is that a place is not made a home by its buildings or road signs or even the fact that you’ve lived there. A place is made home by people. It is people who have cemented this town forever in my heart. It would be a discredit to them to say I hate this place and can not wait to get out. I suffer from sentimentality and nostalgia, and with rapidly-approaching endings and goodbyes, I’ve been trying not to think too much about my full youth and what I’ll miss, but I think I’d like to do that now. I’d like to remember.

I remember my neighborhood friends from when our ages were still in the single digits. We gathered often at the park to play games. Sometimes it was hot lava monster, sometimes cherry-picker, or sometimes something more imaginative. I will never forget the childish giggles released on those wood-chips, nor will I forget the petty fights that were customarily had (and quickly resolved) each time we were in playful competition. I will never forget the nights I spent sitting on the monkey bars, wondering what I’d amount to when I grew older. If one thing is true, it is that I will never forget.

I remember getting to middle school and realizing how wonderful it was to have so many teachers. I looked up to them immensely, I aimed to please, and with every satisfactory grade and supportive comment, I grew a few millimeters taller. It was here that my hunger for success was fostered. Unfortunately, I was soon going to learn that there is a limit on how much ambition—and how much perfectionism—can be healthy and sustainable. I had teachers who understood me and a few who didn’t. I lost a lot of friends and made a few. I started to consider who I was, and who I might be, and was disappointed to find so few answers. I will never forget the middle-school educators who told me that this was okay, nor will I forget how they supported me in subtle ways that allowed me to feel as though I was carving my own path independently. They were selfless, and I’ll never forget.

I remember my fear when approaching high school. I was told that in this building, educators didn’t care to make friends with students. I was warned that I would be met often with indifference—that it would be hard to connect. I am astounded by how wrong they were. On my first day of high school, I met an educator who is a walking antithesis of indifference (and because they are an English teacher, I sincerely hope they appreciate my use of “antithesis” there). I didn’t know, at the time, that I had just met an individual who would come to be one of my greatest mentors, nor did I know that they would be one of my hardest goodbyes; now it is all I can think about. I will never forget this educator who encouraged me to go into teaching, nor will I forget how many other educators have, too, shown me what a teacher can and should be. I will miss all of you dearly, and I will never forget.

I remember. And I remember and I remember and I remember. That is what makes all of this so difficult, and it is what makes it so wonderful. I may leave Stoughton, but the 18 years I have spent driving the same back roads, seeing the same trees bloom each spring, taking school pictures in the same high school gym, and growing up with the same peers, I could never forget. Though I’ll leave, I’ll remember where I came from and the people who made this small town my home. I will remember it all.