In a recent meeting with a trusted mentor, he pointed out that I referred to myself as “girl” twice during our conversation. I’m someone who usually points things like this out to others and I appreciated the observation.

Our conversation – and his subsequent observation – made me think about how being a “small town girl” is who I will always think of myself as – regardless of my age, title, education or experiences. I was reminded that honoring who I am and where I am from is important to me on the journey of raising my family and building my business.

I’ve thought a lot about my girlhood since I started blogging. When I saw the picture above for the first time on social media, I was immediately brought to a few key moments when I was playing full out as a girl. Here are a few that remind me to tap into her spirit when I feel like the world is suffocating and unforgiving.

Zestfully Clean – When I was ten I went to summer camp with other girls whose parents worked at National Machinery – a major employer at the time in Tiffin, Ohio. On skit night our cabin decided to act out popular commercials on TV that summer. Without hesitation, I volunteered to be the “Zestfully clean” girl (here is the vintage 80’s commercial). This involved wearing my bathing suit in front of the whole camp and pretending to sing in the shower.

Chuckwagon sidekick – Around the same time, my family took a trip to the Grand Canyon. (A collection of vacation memories can be found in this blog post). One evening we attended a chuckwagon dinner, complete with square dancing and bonfire. Upon seeing my full themed attire – including jeans and a cowboy hat, I was invited to sit on the front of the wagon with one of the “real cowboys” and later I was his dancing partner. I tried to follow along as he showed me how to do certain steps – in front of the entire crowd.

County fair royalty – The summer before I went to college, I competed for the title of Seneca County fair queen. I didn’t win and was on the queen’s court (I forgot this example when I wrote Second Place Stories). As a member of the fair royalty, the other members of the court and I got free run of the fairgrounds. We handed out trophies and ribbons, announced 4-H competitors, and other assorted duties that required someone wearing a sash to complete. The final day of the fair – in a combination of exhaustion and adrenaline – I participated in a sandwich eating contest followed by a square dancing demonstration. I remember getting flung all over the dusty barn by other members of the fair court, not caring about a thing in the world. My stomach was full of and my pride was restored from not winning the queen’s title.

1998 Seneca County Fair Court

I might not have won the crown, but I think I won the sandwich eating contest!

Small Town Leadership Lesson: The common link in these stories is that I was living without abandon. I didn’t care what others thought or if I messed up the dance moves. What if each of us showed up like this everyday? Imagine if we danced without knowing the moves, if we held our shoulders high no matter who was watching, and we kept a smile on our face the whole time?

Where has your inner girl (or boy) gone? When does she show up? When do you hide from her? What can you do to bring her back?



Small Town Leadership Founder; Natalie believes everything she needed to know to succeed in her career she learned by growing up in a town of 600 people. As a Certified Professional Coach and award-winning public speaker, she helps her clients and audiences make wherever they are feel like a small town. She lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband, Rob, a professor at Ohio State and two little girls.

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