I was raised in a small town of a little over 200 people called Piedmont, South Dakota. I had to commute to the town of Sturgis (under 7,000 people) for high school where I had a class of 150 kids. I know this isn’t the smallest town anyone has ever been from, but still anytime I bring it up I’m sure I get the same responses. “Where is that? What did you even do? That sounds shitty”. I have always defended growing up in a small town because it is like having an embarrassing sibling, only you can make fun of them. However, today, I am going to stop trying to defend small towns and really list why I am proud to have grown up in a “shitty” small town.
Lacked Educational Opportunities
My high school was small, and the education was great, but we lacked opportunities that other students were exposed to. I have met students that have taken classes in fields of early engineering, business, and accounting all before coming to college. Some of my peers arrived to the University of Montana with 30+ credits already to their name. This simply wasn’t possible at my high school.
- I cannot say I am glad that I didn’t have those opportunities, but in a way it made me apply myself more. I knew I was going to be applying to colleges against kids that had more opportunity, and that made me realize in order to do well you have to be intelligent. Growing up in a school system of that size teaches you how to work, and work hard enough to put yourself into the position that you want to be in. It taught me how to embrace an uphill battle, and I will always be proud of that.
“What are we gunna do?”
My town was extremely boring and nothing ever happened. Those words could have literally been 60% of all the words me and my friends have ever said to each other. Constantly we were waiting for something to happen. Always it was, “what movie is out this week? or who’s house are we going to?” Because there was never anything going on. It was mind numbing boredom at its best.
- I am the most grateful for this, and I know that sounds crazy, but it taught me the most valuable of lessons. How to be patient. How to be able to wait for the things in life that you want, and also how to be happy with what you have. Also, because there is nothing ever going on, I came to understand that you have to seize every single opportunity that you have. Living in a small town will give you that perspective.
Living for the Weekend
Like almost every other small town in Midwestern America, the kids would drink on the weekends. There were very little opportunities for everyone to get together other than at a party. I knew numerous people that got tickets for underage drinking, on several occasions. I knew kids in high schools with DUI’s, and kids that probably didn’t know it, but had drinking problems. It has caused a lot of damage, from lost scholarships to lost lives.
- This one may be a “silver lining in the cloud”, but again I am glad to have grown up in that. All because it allows you to see how “cool” it actually is to be the drunkest person at a party, and how the consequences of drinking can be much more severe than a hangover. I continually meet people who haven’t learned these lessons, and it is sad when they do because it is a lesson usually experienced and not witnessed.
Very Few People Have Made It
Whatever it is you want to do, if you are from a small town, chances are there are not going to be many connections readily available to you. For that reason many people go into what is a “safe and secure” job, or whatever industry is common around them. Doing what you want isn’t realistic because rarely do you know of someone who has “made it” in the industry you dream of. Unless, of course, they moved to a city where there are more connections. More people equals more opportunity. Small towns do not have those opportunities.
- This taught me that in order to do what you truly want, you have to step outside of your comfort zone and just go for it. If things aren’t happening around you, make them happen or leave. In order to achieve the things you desire in life you have do things that make you nervous or even afraid sometimes. I am thankful for growing up in Piedmont, because I came to understand that if I didn’t leave there would be no point in pursuing my goals. Since first leaving, I have gone to a number of different places in pursuit of my dreams and it wouldn’t have been possible without leaving home for the first time.
For all of this, and more, I am immensely proud to have grown up in my small “shitty” town in South Dakota because it made me the person I am today, and taught me lessons in life that I believe are invaluable. Small towns may not have a lot material opportunity, but I am glad to be from one. I love my hometown, I love the people, and I would do it again if given the chance. GO SCOOPERS (Actual high school mascot).
Written By: Jesse Schuster
Jesse Schuster is a senior at the University of Montana, a snowboarding wannabee, and a “Scrubs” fanatic.