As priorities changed, so did ideal community

Published 9:00 am Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Positive Approach by Mariah Lynne

Truthfully, I loved growing up in Albert Lea. But like many other Albert Lea High School graduates, I was eager to leave and see what else was out there in the world. After college at MSU, Mankato I accepted a position at a large relocation firm in Plymouth and moved to the metro area to spread my wings.

Mariah Lynne

Mariah Lynne

I remember the first years and all the glorious fulfillment of having everything I wanted within minutes of my office each day. From Chipotle, to clubs, to Target, to Macy’s, everything was within 10 minutes. It was great — for the time of life I was in.

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A couple of years into my career I decided to purchase a house and began searching for my home in the metro area.  Cost wasn’t the only barrier to finding the right house in the suburbs; every time I toured a home I would find myself missing Albert Lea’s amenities and culture. Eventually, I found myself house hunting on the FAR northeast side of the metro. I had to get so far out of the suburbs to find a place that was both affordable and comfortable to where I wanted to purchase an actual home. I ended up in St. Michael. A small town with a beautiful walking path system, a single grocery store, a Subway, carwash, hardware store and a Dairy Queen. It felt like home (ironic thoughts now).

Now settled into the house, I found myself a single woman in my early 20s in a small community even further from Albert Lea (and all of my Dad’s help and tools!), managing a 40- to 45-minute daily commute. That was the first “Aha” moment.

My career was progressing, and I had the pleasure of working for a wonderful woman who I admired and respected very much. Her mother had been battling an illness for recent years and around my four-year work anniversary, she lost her mother. As I was trying to console her, she made a remark that struck deep into my soul. She said, “I spent so many years trying to be independent from my parents and attempting to be my own person away from home. It wasn’t until my mom got sick that I finally returned home. I spent more time watching my mom die than I ever did watching her live.” That was “Aha” moment number two…and the revelation that sent me straight home.

Fast-forward about 10 years. I now have a 20-minute commute from my rural Hartland home to my downtown business each morning and afternoon. I have everything I want within 20 minutes from my husband and children, to my parents, to my office, Kwik Trip, 112 on Broadway, Celebrations and Hy-Vee. All those other big name places I valued in my early 20s are still fun to go to — and I can get to each of them within an hour’s drive — but as my priorities and perspective changed, so did my ideal community.

Have patience with those who move from our community. Sometimes you don’t know what you want until you experience other options. No need to ask them, “Why not Albert Lea?” Just have faith that our community and culture will lure them back when the time is right. It did for me!


Mariah Lynne is the co-founder of  The Marketing Plant. She lives in Hartland.