Most people who weren’t born in Texas say they got here as fast as they could.
It’s a cute way of saying Texas feels like home for those who aren’t from here.
And while Texas is home for me now, it hasn’t always felt that way.
I was born and raised in Southern California with a close knit family and tons of friends I never imagined leaving.
But when I fell in love with The Husband, I knew a move to Texas was a possibility.
So at the young age of 20, we got married, packed our belongings and headed to Texas where I didn’t have a single friend.
The Husband didn’t drag me out here kicking and screaming, but it was close.
My struggle had nothing to do with Texas, it had to do with the fear of leaving home.
Home for me was my comfort zone; the sites and scents of a place I knew well and the people I had loved all my life.
Leaving it behind was hard.
Even today, I get a little teary-eyed when I think about the place I once lived and the many I’ve lost contact with over the years.
Landing in Texas was further complicated by the fact that I found myself in the Cowboy Capital of the World - a place as familiar to me as Mars.
I didn’t know how to begin making a life for myself or how to fit in. Those initial years of my marriage were challenging.
But life has a way of moving forward and working itself out, and mine did too.
Eventually I began making friends, found a church I loved, earned a degree from Tarleton, had three kids and started my career in community journalism.
Then suddenly, without warning or fanfare, it happened.
Stephenville became home.
It became the place of comfort I longed for and the place where new friendships became as meaningful as old ones.
And it was the people who made that happen.
I was recently reminded of that in the strangest way - through the upcoming Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo.
How’s that for irony?
Several years ago, the E-T made the decision to get more involved with the rodeo through corporate sponsorship.
That connection led me to meet people I had never crossed paths with.
There is Ben Clements, Travis Bickham, and Chad and Carie Decker who might just be the nicest humans I have ever met.
This year, my friend Lisa Pendleton and I were asked to participate in The Show and model clothes for one of our favorite local boutiques, Blue Flamingo.
We met with the boutique’s owner Shannon Cagle last weekend to pick out our clothes, and again, another new friendship was formed thanks to our involvement with the rodeo.
Then just this week I stopped by Capital Hatters to pick up tickets to The Show (they’re on sale now you guys!) and chatted for a few moments with owner James Andrae who was just, well, so dang nice.
He had no idea that when I walked out of his shop that sunny afternoon I was thinking about how a lost young woman from California became a happy Texan who had found a new home - thanks to people like him.
It is another powerful reminder to be kind and welcoming to others and offer a word of encouragement whenever we get the chance.
Twenty seven years ago I landed in the right spot without even knowing it, and I will never stop being grateful for that.
Sara Vanden Berge is the managing editor of the Empire-Tribune and Glen Rose Reporter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ETEditor.