I didn’t look out my window and see a beautiful building make of glass. I didn’t drive down a highway to get where I needed to go. I didn’t hear traffic from my living room. I looked out the window and saw the greenest grass. I drove down dirt and gravel roads. The only cars I ever heard from my house were the people driving by honking at us with their hand sticking out their window waving frantically and smiling, or calling our names. I heard crickets at night and saw fireflies dancing in the dark lighting a path that led to wonderful adventure. I’m not from a big city, I don’t live life in the fast lane. I’m from a small town, where cows are more populated than people, and where literally everyone knows who I am.
I was born in a itty bitty town, with people who had itty bitty agendas. No one planned on being a president, but instead we dreamed of being farmers, teachers, preachers, oil field workers, and if you were lucky like one of my classmates, you made it pro in football. We lived for Friday night lights and the bonfires at my best buddy’s house afterward. Where we’d sneak cheap alcohol, get on a four-wheeler, and hit the creek. We lived for ourselves, and we lived for each other. No one had enemies (except for school basketball and football rivals), and everyone was friends in someway with everyone else.
That’s how I grew up, and I loved every second of it. I should have savored it more than I did, I would give anything to relive some of those nights we had, the ones we can remember. We were dumb kids, but we were in love with our lives. We lived for the mud on our boots, and the wind in our hair. We existed for the nights we would climb the water tower, and literally paint the town. We were born to experience the small town heartaches and triumphs.
My granddad was the mayor of my tiny paradise. My mom was a school teacher, and my grandma was a preacher one town over. I was the captain of the basketball team, I played 3 varsity sports all 4 years, I had gone to school there since Pre-K, and I was friends with everyone. Everyone, and I mean everyone, watched what I did. People knew Shelbie Welk, or so they thought.
I was a super happy person the majority of the time! Obviously sometimes my teenage attitude wasn’t always in tip-top condition. But not knowing how to express myself was a major cause for that. I didn’t know how to accept who I was. I fought it, oh boy did I fight it. I dated boys left and right, but I was kissing other people on the side, usually girls. I had a hard time relating to other girls because despite how much I tried, I wasn’t like them. I was the off-brand to their name brand. I was trying desperately to please my family, and the wonderful, yet close minded people of my town. I couldn’t let them down. I couldn’t be someone they didn’t expect me to be.
After I graduated and left my comfort zone, I had to learn who I really was on my own. I went to a Baptist University in East Texas.I knew my roommate, luckily we were best friends in high school, but despite that I was completely alone. She started making her own friends, and so I did. I became best friends with some of the players on the softball team, who ended up being my roommates the next few years. With the exception of one of them, they were all gay. Surprisingly they were fighting it too, so we learned to lean on each other. When we all finally accepted that we were who we were, it was a beautiful time. I realized that I could finally relax my shoulders for the first time in years. I had been so uptight while I was trying to portray something I never was, I finally got to take a load off, and enjoy myself.
That lasted for a while. Until I met a speaker in chapel, who convinced me that me being myself was a sin. I wasn’t supposed to be gay, and my family had been right all this time. I was a sinner, and I had a one way ticket to the flames. I believed him. I tried not to, but I believed him with all of my heart. The guilt consumed me in ways I never thought possible. I ended a relationship, and started trying my hand at men again. Needless to say, it didn’t work (this will be a story in another blog post.)
After years and years of trying to mask who I was, of trying my hardest to please the people around me, I couldn’t anymore.
My hometown left a huge mark on me. One thing it showed me was that there is so much beauty in letting things grow wildly, and on their own. Letting things be free, like the cattle that graze the pastures, like the birds who nest here in the summer, like the rushing waters at Brushy Creek when it rains, like the wildflowers on the side of C.R. 3211. No one planted them, no one picked them, but they chose to grow there, they chose to root themselves in that particular area. That is what I am choosing to do. I choose to live in God’s will, but I also choose to express my freewill as a human. No one can pick where I land, or where I go.
I am a wildflower, a rebelliously beautiful breed. I am someone who can’t be tamed, and I won’t be planted in a box. I choose to live outside of the box. I choose to be myself. I won’t be blended in with the pack, but I’ll stand out. I can thank my country roots for that. Because even though I was surrounded by a lot of close minded people, they taught me to be open-minded without even realizing it. The land I was surrounded by, the animals that roamed around me, the people who dared to be different, they taught me what it meant to uproot yourself and grow elsewhere. And I am so blessed, and grateful that I learned to be myself.