I didn’t realize until recently, but I had forgotten who I was. I had forgotten where I was from.
More than 15 years ago, I left Carrollton, Georgia for the great American west. Like many others from the former, I graduated from Central High (class of ‘98—go, Lions!) and began my collegiate studies at the University of West Georgia. Halfway through my bachelor’s degree, however, I had a change of heart and transferred to a prominent university in the mountains of Utah.
To be clear, I wasn’t running away from the admittedly rural town, county, or “Peach State.” I relished my upbringing there. But sometimes the soul asks to see someplace new. In that sense, I was running towards something new, fully expecting to return someday.
But then I met a girl from the Pacific Northwest. Shortly before graduating, we married and toyed with the idea of returning to either her hometown or mine. But things never worked out that way, which initially frustrated us. Later, after our first child was born and my writing career took off, we decided to embrace our newfound Utah residence instead of bemoaning it or longing for distant geographies.
In doing so, my family found a new home and community—one we continue to love to this day. In the ensuing years, my family grew and I acquired a new identity—mountain man, not southern gentleman.
Around the same time, my parents relocated to Texas for a new job. So instead of visiting them in my “home town,” we visited “grandma and grandpa” in the Lone Star State for the next 10 years.
That was until 2017 when my mother informed my partially-retired father, “We’re going home to Carrollton.” When my seven-year-old daughter heard the news, she asked me to show her the home, town, and state I grew up in. I agreed but didn’t think much of it. Mountain man was happy in the mountains.
Last October, that long overdue visit became a reality. And it had a much bigger impact on me than I ever imagined.
First, I grew up in a gorgeous neighborhood—easily one of the most beautiful settings in America. It’s so green, forested, sleepy, and well-kept that foreigners wouldn’t be wrong for mistaking it for Augusta, Georgia, where The Masters are played. I had forgotten this.
Good looks aside, I also reconnected with good company. I met several old friends for a fundraising luncheon at one of two country clubs in a town of 25,000 (compare that with just one country club in a metro area of 400,000 where I now live). Next I visited an old mentor turned department chair at my first university. And finally some spiritual giants at the church I used to attend.
After all these years, I had forgotten that I was reared by and alongside good people and a good community in a good environment. Maybe I didn’t have to choose between mountain man and southern gentlemen. Maybe I could be both.
Last but not least, I was pleased to see and experience the town’s growth over the last decade. According to official census figures, Carrollton has grown 25% since I last lived there. I saw that growth first hand after revisiting old homes, old stomping grounds, the recently revived town square, the university campus, and biking the beautiful 18 mile GreenBelt with the help of a fancy bike rental app.
Seeing the town’s gains made me realize what a blessing it is to live in a growing (rather than idle or regressive) community. It’s a blessing because growth attracts more life, and more life attracts more opportunity.
During my week long visit and since returning to my current home, I feel as though I rediscovered part of my identity. It is this: I was raised in a wonderful and hospitable part of the world. Although it’s no longer where I hang my hat, it still holds a special and sizeable place in my heart.
My name is Blake Snow, and I’m proud to have “grown up” in Carrollton. It was, is, and will forever be a part of me. I know that now.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: For more than a decade, Blake Snow has written and published thousands of articles for half of the top 20 U.S. media, including CNN, Wired, USA Today, NBC, and other fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. This story first appeared in a December, 2017 print edition of The Times-Georgian, my hometown newspaper.