Courtesy: Mads McDowell

Junior Mads McDowell pose with friends in California.

Obviously, you would think that moving from a big, busy state like California to an almost invisible state like Wyoming would be difficult, but really it wasn’t.

Moving to this small town wasn’t exactly my choice though. Due to issues with my mother, I was invited to live with my dad; he is a great person and you might know him as your eye doctor if you do business with Powell Vision Clinic. I’m extremely happy to be in a safe and stable environment. Although there’s almost nothing to do out here, I’m still content.

Since I was young, I’ve been visiting Powell; my dad and grandparents live here. I went to Southside Elementary for first grade here and came out every summer before I officially decided to live here. My life in California wasn’t how the movies make it out to be. It wasn’t always fun and games, and it wasn’t always free, for me anyway. My mother never let me leave the house, and I lost a lot of friends because of this. I wasn’t allowed to hangout with anyone unless my mother knew everything about them and had been around them before. Her paranoia and helicopter parenting, of course, affected my health and relationships for the worst. I missed out on concerts, parties, skate seshes, sleepovers and simple hangouts at the park down the street from our house, all because she was worried about only God knows what.

There are a number of things you can do in California that you can’t do in Wyoming. In California you can go to a concert or music festival for artist(s) that don’t just perform country. You can go out to eat almost any type of (authentic) native food. You can go to a mall and actually buy jeans that aren’t Wranglers. You can hang out at a legitimate skate park with other skaters. You can go to Target and buy overpriced food and furniture. And if you’re really feeling crazy, you could go indoor skydiving.

It is almost impossible to get bored in California unless you’re a girl who’s always locked up in her room, like I was. I’m pretty positive you can’t do most of that stuff out here in Wyoming.

I miss all of those things, but there are definitely some things you can do in Wyoming that you can’t do in California. For example, camping in the Big Horns. There are some spots in the Big Horns that are so breathtaking they seem fake. Being able to unplug, ride ATVs, roast marshmallows and just sit in silence for a weekend is so magnificent. The traffic here is another extremely satisfying perk of living in an empty state. It doesn’t take three hours to get to something that’s 90 miles away. Though there aren’t many things to do even 90 miles from here, unless you go to Billings, it’s still nice not having to worry about traffic.

Something I feel a lot of people take for granted here is the fact that you can be someone. You’re not just another face in the crowd; you can truly be a somebody. There are so few people here that everyone knows everything about everyone, which is terrifying if you think about for too long, but also exciting. Community is a big thing in small towns like Powell as well and it’s crazy to think that if I need help with something, someone will help me, no questions asked. In California, you’re a nobody unless you’re famous or hot; and if you ever need help with something, people won’t just help you, that’d be weird. California is more of a help yourself type state; if you can’t do stuff on your own, you won’t make it.

California’s diversity is off the charts compared with Wyoming’s diversity, in all fields. In California there are plenty of African-Americans, Asians, Mexicans and Caucasians, but here there’s hardly any ethnic diversity. This is really unfortunate because people that have lived their whole lives around only one culture and race are missing out on other cultures that are colorful and just as special as their own.

Religion is a sacred topic. I’d like to say that the people here are just as religious as the people in Cali. Even though the three religions I’m referring to are all very different, the people that practice them are more similar than you would think. Skating, Surfing and Cowboyin’ seem to be the three most popular religions nowadays. These three religions are practiced by all races and all genders and the people who partake in them all have these things in common: ambition, drive, passion and a nice butt. They’re all so good at what they do because they constantly practice and make it their life. It’s their religion.

Style is difficult to keep up with when there aren’t many places to shop, but somehow all the people here I have seen so far, pull off what they wear. In Cali everyone wears the same designer stuff like Gucci, Louis V, Balenciaga, etc. etc. It gets boring, but here in Wyoming the boots and belts specifically are exceptionally fashionable and can be worn with pretty much anything. Who needs a pair of designer boots or a designer belt when you could have red, off-brand, cowboy boots and a rodeo belt? Not me.

Wyoming may not be my dream spot, but I have something here that I never had in California: freedom. Even though I can’t do the things I used to do in Cali, I can still do things outdoors and start over. I am free to hang out with friends and talk to whomever I want to, I am free to be my own person and make decisions for myself and most importantly, I am free to be happy; and that’s why I like Wyoming.