Friday, January 6, 2012

Nacogdoches: A Love Story

One of the most fun parts of my job at a university is writing for our magazine and sharing the story of interesting alumni and programs. It gives me pride in my Alma Mater and inspires me to follow my dreams.

My latest assignment allows me to be a tourist in my own town, a travel writer of sorts, exploring all the fun and fare in The Oldest Town in Texas. If you would have asked me in 2004 {when I started at SFA as an undergrad} to write a story about all the wonderful things about Nacogdoches, I would have balked and said never, ever. Ever. Back then, I was a bonafide city girl, and the tiny town was nothing but torture with a lack of decent shopping and non-existent nightlife.

But after two moves back and forth to the big city, I realized how much I really do love this quirky small town. Everyone knows everyone, and they would do anything for you. The connections I've made here have been priceless. You're always greeted with a smile, and despite what some college kids may say, I rarely have a night with nothing to do. In fact, I'm always turning down offers to stop by Flashback Cafe (my favorite bar...my version of "Cheers") or bar up for happy hour at Auntie Pastas.

Now that I let go and decided that Nacogdoches will never be a big city like that, I've discovered all the priceless and endearing things that make it lovely. I found myself here. Fell in love, fell out of love. Dabbled as an art student. Made mistakes. Had conversations that touched my soul. Grew up. Lived on my own, but was never alone. Made friends that will last a lifetime. Got my first post-grad job in the field I wanted {my husband got his, too}. Had strangers congratulate me on our wedding announcement in the paper. Little things that you often take for granted. No doubt, Nacogdoches has been good to us. It's the reason people stay here and grow old. It's the reason people leave and wished they wouldn't have. Just something about it.

Now that we've bought our first home here, it really puts into perspective what kind of town you want your kids to grow up in. Being in my hometown, you were anonymous, without a sense of community or connection to your neighbor. Now, I can't step foot in a store without stopping for a 10 minute chat and catching up with so-and-so. And its crazy refreshing! Of course I miss some of the amenities of the city, but the trade off is worth it. I can always go visit. And I usually leave with highway driving anxiety and a lot less money in my pocket.

Yesterday we had a day of photo shoots for my Nacogdoches story, and it reaffirmed my belief that I'm right where I need to be.
This is me and Gracie at Heart of Texas, a quintessential quaint gift shop on the downtown square. I just wanted to take her home with me! We just played in the floor while we laughed and chatted about business with owner Geri Larabee. It just felt like home, the way it feels at most of my favorite places in Nacogdoches. It was also a great opportunity to appreciate all the blessings I have in my own backyard.

So it may not be the big city life I had planned for myself so many years ago, but what it lacks in size, Nacogdoches makes up for in heart. And in a time when everyone seems so busy, hurried and stressed out, it's nice to know that small town America is still alive and well.

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