One hell of a word, huh? Definitely not one easily defined, well, unless you look in the dictionary...
I used to think that meant getting away from the small towns, escape being dragged into the mill life because I saw so many of my friends getting pulled in, thinking it was only temporary. I looked around and saw that most of those people had said the same thing...many, many, many years before that.
They'd had dreams not dissimilar to mine. Some for college where they'd study for some great career. After that, they would move on to a great job making serious money, falling in love with someone beautiful and having a family. Something like that. Others had wanted to see the world by joining the military and still others had wanted to do something off the beaten path, become a rock star or a pro-wrestler. Roper was just for a little while, to make some money, save up and such, but somewhere in there those dreams got lost and they settled, y'know. First they moved into the apartment, just for a few months mind you, that turned into a few years and they settled for the day to day routine, settled for the upper-lower class previously owned car, settled for the decently pretty girl or decently good lookin' guy to date.
Things happened from there. One year goes by, then another and another, and then they look around a little bewildered wondering when they got so old and where their dreams went. That good life of a new car, new house, smart dog, soul mate had become a house with walls too thin and paint that was peeling, a car that might run in the morning, and someone equally as bewildered as you that you don't really like and kids you weren't ready for. That box that once had a hundred doors into a bright and colorful world full of life had shut and locked long ago, and they came to realize that settling meant dying and dreams were something you only had in your sleep..
I made it out of that, thankfully, never having the words, "I'll probably be here my entire life." escape my lips..
When I look back on it, I remember disliking people and thinking, "Every dog has his day." I hear stories now, of the kids I thought that about, never letting what they said bother me because I knew something was going to happen like that, and for many, it did. They're beginning to settle, slowly closing doors and locking them and shutting out the sunlight. Amazingly, I don't feel that malice that I felt when I thought such thing, and don't get some wicked joy from being right. Lately, I've just kind of hung my head, nodded and walked on knowing one more had been lost.
It wasnít until it happened to one of my own friends that I finally understood what this little town was all about. Yeah, a lot of what I just wrote is true. People do settle here, little by little, they settle for what life throws at them. I thought it was the town though, that did it. The mentality that trapped them here. I thought that somehow it was the school that dragged people down. I thought it had somehow failed its students and perhaps in many ways it has, I thought it was the atmosphere here that never promoted anything past the mills. I thought Iíd escaped and therefore was free and in some advantageous position to watch objectively the goings-on of this town. But then again, I think a lot of things.
After all, people thought the world was flat and that a body would fall off if they went to far. It seemed a reasonable thought being as the world did seem flat and that one could not actually see the curvature of the Earth. It wasnít, however, until someone actually sailed it, to see if it really was flat that the truth was finally revealed. Or a child believing the stork brought a new brother or sister, the actual truth cannot be discovered until the event actually takes place in front of the childís eyes.
I am still a child, and my initial reaction to many things may or may not be objective and may or may not be the actual truth. I believe, however, now that I have seen it, that I do know the truth.
Rather it was a decision to leave this town.
This town is not a trap. It is not a living monster that eats things. Itís not a giant black hole for innocent souls. Rather, it is just a town. There is a main street, plenty of churches, a couple of good places to eat and more than anything, memories. I do believe in such a thing as a small town mentality, but Iíve found that it is created more by the people who remain here more than some malevolent force that lies just out from the horizon. This town is a place where I have roots. Itís a place with a lot of memories both good and bad and the place where my childhood slipped away unnoticed by time, not unseen by circumstance.
Dreams are lost here and dreams are created here and this town will neither will a soul to live nor condemn it to death. Itís a warm blanket that will wrap itself about a body and keep them safe until theyíre ready to throw off itís protection and seek out the world. The souls that become lost here are lost here not because they were given no chance, it is simply that the decisions they made in their lives did not dictate their exit from this place.
It is a manís own soul that leads him from place to place or chains him mercilessly to the hell in which he sees himself in. And he will go nowhere until he can allow himself to leave this place on good conscience and see it for nothing more than it is. In this case-just a town.
FreedomÖis not a chance, it is a given. Man needs only grasp it.