Like most people who live in Bozeman, I'm what they call a "transplant," meaning I was not born and raised here. People ask me all the time how I ended up in the Last Best Place, and it's funny to watch their reactions when I say, "I spun a globe with my eyes closed."
I was born and raised in Southeast Florida until I was eleven years old, then moved to central Massachusetts, where I attended middle school and high school, my most difficult years. Between an ugly custody battle, my mom struggling to pay the bills, and being bullied, I kept myself busy with figure skating, horseback riding, singing, and volunteering for youth programs. I don't know how my mom was able to afford it, but it's what distracted me from the chaos, and I'm thankful for that.
My high school years were filled with being tormented, toxic and pathetic teen romances, and depression. By the time my senior year rolled around, I was exhausted, and had almost given up. I would go through the motions of the school day, come home, and sleep until it was time to do it all over again. I couldn't bare the constant harassment anymore, and dreaded going to school. It had gotten to the point where I couldn't even eat lunch in the cafeteria with the other kids. I had to eat in the classroom, and a teacher had to escort me to each of my classes. It was humiliating, to be honest.
During this time, I was battling with the idea of college. To go or not to go? My mom told me I didn't really have a choice. So, the next day I went to school, and spun a globe with my eyes closed, and said, "I'll go wherever I land, at least for a year." I landed in Montana. Oddly enough, when I was six years old and growing up in Florida, I told my mom I was going to move to Montana some day. She laughed it off, as I'd never even been before, nor had I ever seen photos.
I looked at all of the programs they offered, and one of them was Equine Science. Just to cover myself, I also applied to equine schools in Ohio, and Massachusetts. I was accepted to both schools with generous scholarships, but waited impatiently for my letter from Montana State University. It was the last one to come in, they offered me no scholarship, and I was accepted into the program by the skin of my teeth. As I jumped up and down, screaming with excitement, my was mom overwhelmed with sadness, and my dad wore the expression of "oh, shit," knowing he'd be consoling my mom the entire time I was gone. Off to Montana I went. No other place has ever felt like home. Being in Montana made me feel like I was here once before, like deja vu for the soul.
Unfortunately, I broke my back during my freshman year, and after finishing out the school year, I went back to MA, and regretted it instantly. I missed Montana so much, and felt as though I truly left a piece of myself there. I ended up staying in MA and finishing out my bachelor's in CT. Enduring more toxic relationships, and lots of cheap red wine, I began to feel a hunger for something "more" in my life.
In the fall of 2014, I dumped my boyfriend, packed two suitcases, and bought a one-way ticket to the Last Best Place. I never looked back, and have never felt one ounce of regret.
To be a wildflower does not mean you have to grow up in a rural atmosphere (my mom's idea of camping is a hotel), be a farmer, or grow up hiking in the mountains on your dad's back. It means, growing in all of the places people said you never would. It means following your heart, despite all the adversity, and most of all, it means never giving up on yourself, your dreams, and the person you want to be. People laughed at me when I told them I was moving to Montana, hell, my family argued with each other regarding my decision to leave. I went anyway.
I persevered throughout my entire life to do the things that were most important to me. I persevered, just like a wildflower does.
I hope you do, too.