By SARAH ENSIGN
One hundred and thirteen miles: The distance from my little, yet lived in, college dorm room in Bloomington, Ind. to my home in northeastern Jefferson County. One hundred and thirteen miles was also the distance I needed to travel to realize how blessed I was to have been born and raised in Louisville, Ky. It took me 18 years and just one drive down the picturesque River Road to realize what a substantial impact growing up in Louisville has had on me. Towards the end of my senior year at Ballard High School, I was itching at every moment for the time I would be able to get out of Louisville. I wanted something bigger, something better. I needed a change of pace.
My first few months at college, people were taken aback by my big city view on life when they learned I was from Louisville. I would simply respond, “Don’t remind me.” Now before I start sounding like a cynical teenager who is ungrateful for the life she has been provided, I must relieve you of those thoughts. I was grateful for the childhood I was given. I have a loving family, parents who deserve to win Nobel peace prizes for dealing with me and my brother, and a supportive group of friends. But little did I know that one of the biggest impacts on my childhood was the city of Louisville as a whole.
I was the definition of a teenager who didn’t appreciate what Louisville had to offer, and I missed out. I preferred to spend my weekends traveling to visit friends in other cities and I wasn’t very active in high school clubs, but this was all my own doing. I never made much of an effort. I never allowed Louisville to challenge me as a teenager, but I also never challenged it back. I escaped from it, thought about the future and my life when I left Louisville, all while missing out. I don’t regret this, but rather take it as a lesson that, in the future, I should slow down and stop wishing the good things away in hope of greater things.
When I was dropped off at my dorm room last August, I felt as though I had finally escaped. But by May, when it was time to come home for the summer, I wanted to be back. I craved the smell of bluegrass, the southern hospitality, the drives down River Road with my windows rolled down; the simple things in life that only Louisville can provide.
Much to anyone’s, and frankly my own, surprise, I find myself eager to tell people my hometown these days. “Louisville, Kentucky,” I can proudly say. The “502.” The home of the Kentucky Derby, the Louisville Cardinals, and some of the best hospitality around. But most importantly, Louisville is my heart and my home. It encapsulates everything that I am as a young woman. My mind may still be moving fast, but my body is moving slowly, something that Louisville has made me come to appreciate. Slow down, experience your youth, and don’t take the simplicity for granted.
To the angst-driven teenagers waiting for the time you can finally escape, I understand. My best advice is to take some time to appreciate our mix of Southern hospitality and Midwest mentality. You’ll never find it again. Sometimes it takes distance, in my case 113 miles, to come to this realization.