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At 17, I imagined my future relationship with Wilson as a place I would occasionally visit family and friends. I had just graduated from high school and was preparing to leave the only town I had ever called home. I knew I would miss my family and friends, but I was not afraid. I knew I was smart and capable. I had a plan for my life, and it did not include Wilson.
As the old saying goes, “When we plan, God laughs.” I have now been back home for seven years, and last week I took my 17-year-old son to Winston-Salem to finish high school at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. In the months and weeks leading up to this event, I heard him say many of the same things I said at his age. I want him to do all the amazing things he has envisioned. I hope he travels the world and inspires people to walk in their purpose. But I also hope he realizes, as I have, that inspiration can be found anywhere if your heart is open to be inspired.
After living in Baltimore for 12 years, I came home to slow down and regroup. I wanted to see my family for more than a weekend. I was tired of just stopping by Parker’s for a barbecue sandwich on my way out of town. I wanted to spend time with my dad. I did not plan to stay more than a year. But, in that year, I started to love my hometown in a new way.
My son had his cousins as playmates and friends, just as I had as a kid. My aunt cooked on Sundays, invited us over and kept an open-door policy just as my grandparents had when they were alive and owned the home where she now lives. Teachers and parents of friends remembered little anecdotes I had long forgotten, and I would learn something old and new about myself at the gas station or the grocery store. I did not have to plant roots here; in Wilson, I had a thriving garden.
Once the decision was made to stay, the details solidified. I found a group of great friends, I fell in love with my husband while participating in a community play, I developed a relationship with, and am now employed by, my local paper. My son had the active, consistent love and support that only a village provides.
My husband and I planned a bon voyage party for my son before he left. There were too many people to comfortably hold it in our home. Our family came through to make sure we had the space we needed. As I looked around his party at the almost 70 people in attendance and fielded calls and texts from our loved ones who could not make it, I knew I made the right decision to come home.
My dreams have and continue to come true right here where it all began. I see Wilson for what it is, good and bad. I look forward to writing weekly about this place and the great people who live here. And I am happy to be a home(town) girl.
LaMonique Hamilton Barnes is a reporter and copy editor for The Wilson Times. She also blogs about arts and culture at iamlamonique.com.