It's Our Turn: The power of community
Growing up, I always knew that one day I would pack up my bedroom in my childhood home, load up my car and set off for a new adventure. When I imagined doing so, it was always to move to a city, to follow the hustle and bustle, to be where things happened.
A small town was never part of the plan. Moving farther away from the Twin Cities was never part of the plan. Alexandria, being a small town and located two and a half hours from the Cities, was certainly not part of the plan.
But plans change. A little over two years ago, I made the choice to move to this community in order to be closer to my boyfriend, Brandon, who had secured a full-time job here. I didn't have a job lined up, didn't know my way around town and didn't know a single person (apart from Brandon). I thought we would maybe live here a year or two before relocating and settling down elsewhere.
What I didn't expect was to fall in love with a little community in west-central Minnesota. I didn't expect to be taken in by the downtown charm, the hundreds of lakes or the beauty of the winters. I didn't expect to buy a little hobby farm and start a career at a community newspaper.
Before living here, I never thought those things mattered to me. I thought living in a city would be glamourous and exciting, and living in the country would be the opposite. But I was wrong. My life today isn't less because I live in a small town. In fact, this lifestyle offers more for me personally. I have room to breathe, room to grow, room to be the person I want to be. I see now that city living would have smothered me.
But more than the county charm or the scenery, it's the people here that have made this place home. I love that I can walk into a downtown coffee shop and run into numerous people I know. I love that I can call up a store and have someone I'm familiar with answer the phone. There's something special about living in a place like that versus a place where you're surrounded by strangers more often than not.
I'm often asked if it was hard to adjust to living here. My answer is no, it wasn't. But I think a large part of that answer has to do with my job. As a reporter, I was forced to jump into being involved in our county. I didn't have a choice when it came to getting to know the people that make up this community because I often needed to talk to a variety of different people, depending on the story I was writing.
Over the past two years, I've interviewed countless people from every part of this community. Some of those people have turned into friends. Others I haven't crossed paths with again. Some are just familiar faces when I am out and about.
But by sharing their lives with me, they've all helped me to feel like I have a place here, like I belong in this community. They've all made this once foreign place feel a little more like home with each day that passes.