Home forms who we are

By Bailey Bryant

Home is where the free food and laundry service are (Thanks mom!). For me, it’s a town where I know nearly everyone’s name and 4-wheel-drive diesel trucks run rampant. 

As the holidays approach, it’s a place I can’t wait to get back to — something I never imagined myself saying two years ago. 

In my hometown, corn stalks outnumber people, farm equipment stops traffic and renegade cows on the playground keep kids in from recess. These things, which I now find endearing, were enraging in high school. 

Back then, I didn’t love my small town; I loathed it. 

I resented the fact that the County Market parking lot was a place of congregation and that the mall had more vacancies than it did stores. 

I was unsatisfied with the lack of diversity in my high school’s curriculum and displeased by the opportunities left unavailable to me because of it. 

I didn’t want to be a nurse, a teacher or anything of the sort, which posed a problem considering the type of job opportunities available in the area. 

I guess you could say my aspirations didn’t line up with small-town living; they still don’t. 

I left Bismarck, Ill. as soon as possible and moved to the (for me) big, bustling metropolitan area of Champaign-Urbana, a change of scenery with an increased population — just a pit stop on the way to where I’m headed. 

And though I have no desire to permanently live in Bismarck, my long-time absence from the place where I spent my first 18 years has caused me to develop a newfound appreciation for it. Something I think can be said of most college students. 

Now that I’m able to look past the negatives of my hometown, I’ve come to appreciate all that I’d previously overlooked. 

Bismarck is a part of me, and it always will be. No matter how old I get or how far away I move, that’s where my roots are. 

The same can be said of any person from any place. Hometowns are where we all began. 

In my hometown, I fostered my love of reading. If I hadn’t had so little to do in my youth, my current career path would be anyone’s guess. I’m might not be majoring in journalism and pursuing publishing, two disciplines I chose early on in life after spending many weekends of my adolescence at home reading. 

Growing up in Bismarck also allowed me to spend 13 years getting to know my kindergarten classmates, something not many can boast. 

And had my fourth grade nemesis not told me I needed to buy bigger pants, who’s to say I wouldn’t have continued down the dangerous path of cosmic brownies and Cool Ranch Doritos that I was on? 

Like he so often tells me, he was just helping me out. 

On a more serious note, helpfulness is a commonality in my town. When community members struggle or fall ill, we come together, we raise money, we help one another. This is a luxury I might not have had if I was raised in a city where I didn’t know the name of anyone on my block. 

Most of all, though, my hometown is to thank for my unwavering motivation and drive. My discontent with that environment inspired me to work hard to remove myself from it, an attitude I have yet to abandon. 

So while Bismarck isn’t for me, I appreciate all that it has given me — my so-called southern accent, a multitude of quirky agricultural-related stories, black mail on dozens of former classmates and a few life-long friends (including my fourth grade nemesis).

This holiday season, I’m eager to pay my past another visit. I’ll be spending my upcoming breaks reuniting with my family and friends in a place that helped make us all who we are today.

And though not everyone has a Bismarck, Ill., everyone has a hometown, and I hope my peers are lucky enough to return to theirs this holiday season.

Bailey is a junior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]