“You can take the girl out of the small town, but you can’t take the small town out of the girl.” True story when it comes to this small town girl. I moved away from Iuka in 2002 to …
“You can take the girl out of the small town, but you can’t take the small town out of the girl.”
True story when it comes to this small town girl. I moved away from Iuka in 2002 to go to school at Mississippi State University and had no idea that it was a foreshadowing of a much bigger move in 2006 to the big city of Houston, Texas. Moving to such a big city was a culture shock and even though I’ve lived in Houston for 17 years now, my heart still yearns for the slower pace of the small town life.
Work brought me to Houston all those years ago. Anytime I run across someone in Texas with Mississippi roots or someone comments on my Southern twang, I light up to talk about where I was born and raised.
Mississippi is at my heart, a part of who I am at my core. Texans who have travelled through Mississippi have commented to me that “the trees are so tall in Mississippi”. I never noticed the contrast in tree heights until said co-workers marveled at the difference from Texas to Mississippi. And I hurriedly chime in to tell them the other differences between these two places.
Any car you pass in my small hometown, the driver waves acknowledgment as you drive past.
Concrete stretches for eternity in Houston, but back home in the ‘Sip, rolling hills, green pastures dotted with cows and horses, rows of soybeans, corn, and other crops stretch to the horizon.
Somehow words lengthen and shorten all at once with a Southern accent, which only highlights the character of this place.
Mississippi is always depicted as hot and humid in movies where the characters glisten with sweat. That isn’t wrong necessarily, but, hello, we have air conditioning!
In Houston, neighbors live five feet away from your front door, but in the ‘Sip there might be a field between neighbors.
I travel back to Iuka a couple times a year to visit my family. I find that it takes me a few days to downshift from the fast pace of corporate America and city life. Every time I come home, I always leave with a greater appreciation.
That’s the blessing of coming home, seeing the differing perspectives of where I currently live and contrasting it with my hometown. It’s not only about who is around the table with you sharing a meal, but the hands that made the homemade dishes. Who made the jelly or jam or canned vegetables and it’s all different names.
It’s a community nourishing each other’s tables and families. Iuka and small towns like it have a sense of community that isn’t found easily in the big city.
In fact, I would say that Houston might be one of the hardest cities to find community. Everyone is so spread out and traffic makes it challenging to get across town to a friend’s home. A 30 minute drive in Houston doesn’t equal 30 miles…more like 30 minutes equals 10 miles on a good day. And when I go to the grocery store in Houston, I never see anyone I know…which is sometimes a good thing, because I don’t have to worry about makeup, or fixing my hair or care what I’m wearing. It’s far from the truth in Iuka where you shop with all your friends and it’s a rare occurrence to not run into someone you know.
Mississippi will never be just a place on a map to me. It will always mean home. Mississippi built me. I once was on a phone call with a Midland, Texas based co-worker. During the conversation I mentioned I was from Mississippi and said, “like many Southern women, I am thoughtful, sweet and hospitable, however, there’s a flip side of being a Southern woman who can also be assertive when need be.”
I think I scared the man on the other end of the phone call because he asked, “should I be concerned?”
I laughed and told him, “No, sir, not at the moment.”
All kidding and jokes aside, one of my greatest strengths in my career is the ability to not only work with many types and levels of people, but to really connect with them.
If I trace this strength back to where it comes from, it would be what I learned growing up in my small hometown.
Authenticity, humility, grace, manners, shaking hands and looking people in the eyes when speaking are uncommon these days. But I know a place where it still stands true and that place is my home town, Iuka, Mississippi. I might live 12 driving hours away, but my heart never left…it’s right where it belongs.
The small town will always be in this girl.
Carlynn is a 2000 graduate of Tishomingo County High School.