I moved to Waco for my freshman year of college on a sweltering hot day in August 2013. This month I graduate from Baylor with plans to move to New York City. As my days in Waco are coming to an end, I can’t help but think about everything that has changed and, most importantly, the one thing that has stayed the same.
Waco was not yet an HGTV claim-to-fame my freshman year. Chip and Joanna have since put Waco on the map. People now drive hundreds of miles to visit the Magnolia Silos. Tourism rates have peaked, and the energy of the city feels more and more alive.
A combination of HGTV, Baylor’s success, a lot of people’s hard work and a little bit of luck have made this city different from what it was when I arrived. In light of all these changes, I realize now one of the most inspiring things about this city is how much Wacoans have loved it from the very beginning.
For me, restless and ready to move to a big city, the people of this town have shown me something fundamental. I want to be where everyone and everything moves fast and big decisions are made on every street corner every day. I long for a place where the best respite can be found in a skyscraper-surrounded park.
And that is exactly why I needed Waco.
This community has shown me the beauty of slowing down. My first trip to the Waco Downtown Farmers Market one Saturday left me full of not only delicious treats but full of life, sunshine and memories of strangers smiling at one another. The farmers market reflects a gentle, inviting culture unique to this Central Texas town. I’ve never been so encouraged to step outside and shop local.
One of my best friends is from Waco, and her parents welcomed me into their home with open arms throughout my time here. When I was homesick and timid, their kind invitations to movie nights with home-cooked meals were game changers. My friend also took me to her favorite local places. From The Olive Branch to Poppa Rollo’s, she showed me the best restaurants with the best food and even better charm. While experiencing these gems for the first time, I found something else, too — the people of Waco love Waco.
The change that has come is a testament to their devotion.
I am excited for my next adventure in New York after graduation, but there are a lot of things about this town that are going to stick with me. I will always think of Downtown Waco when I see Dr Pepper. Lula Jane’s cookies will forever be on my mind. And no coffee will ever compete with the iced No Bull from Common Grounds.
If I could sum up what makes Waco special in three words I would say this: It’s the people. From my dear friend who grew up here and whose parents welcomed me wholeheartedly into their home to the mere observation of families whose smiles show their gratitude to wake up in Waco every day and raise their kids here, I have been changed by these people. Here’s to new adventures, but first, here’s to a four-year-long adventure that has forever changed my life. Wacoans have showed me what it is to love where you live.