By Sara Serkownek, Chattanoga, Tenn., — I recently returned to my hometown for our annual four day celebration, Mule Day. Yes, you read that right, it’s real, Google it.
The tradition dates back over 140 years and is my hometown’s most notable claim to fame. We’re also home to James K. Polk’s ancestral home, but seeing as he wasn’t Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, or John F. Kennedy, no one actually cares about his presidency.
Personally, I hate Mule Day. Everything the vendors sell is shoddy, all of the food is fried, and the most fashionable thing to wear is a sundress and cowboy boots. It’s basically the sum of my hometown, which I also happen to hate.
People will often say to remember where you come from. I’ve never bought into this. I believe it’s more important to remember where you’re going. My hometown Columbia, Tenn., has never been my home.
I lived there for 18 years. My mother and grandmother still live there. I know too many people that still live there. But, never once, have I missed it.
I didn’t belong in Columbia. Even when I did things right, I somehow did them wrong. I played sports in high school, but I never really cared about them. There were deer on our property, but we didn’t hunt them. When I rode horses, I didn’t show-jumping and dressage rather than barrel racing and rodeos. I don’t own a single pair of cowboy boots.
When I moved away to Chattanooga, I thought I had found my niche. And while I do get a sense of community in Chattanooga, it has nothing to do with the city, but with the people I’ve found in it.
And I’m well aware that in a year, most of my friends—and myself—will be graduating and scattering like dandelions. So if you ask me if I love Chattanooga, I will answer yes. But would I stay here? Never.
It’s perfectly fine for places to be stepping stones. You don’t have to have a deep, heartfelt passion for your city or hometown or your college. My hometown was a step to college. Chattanooga is a step to the rest of the world.