Steamboat Springs Familiarities, such as waving to strangers on the street, walking to school daily and never experiencing traffic jams have always been a part of my life.
Knowing the names of every student in the senior class and having my cell phone returned, again, by a stranger are things somewhat expected of a close-knit community like Steamboat Springs. However friendly the aspects of small-town life are, there are unseen dangers in growing up here, some that have no relation to the crime rate or smog levels: small-town gossip.
Recognizing your surname on the front-page headlines of the Pilot is never comforting. Yes, this is about my father's recent resignation from the School Board, but it also is about Taylor Miller-Freutel, Kylee Swiggart, Niki DuBord and Kenyon Brenner, as well as any student who has ever seen their parents' name in the jail report.
Scandal travels fast in a small town. Our families' business is rightfully reported to the public, but it happens in a way that is totally out of our control. Because of this, not only those close to us are aware of the issues, but in Steamboat, our teachers, bosses, coworkers and peers know as well.
The issue is not necessarily that our family ties are problematic in regard to how we are treated, just that our parents' views might somehow cause judgments of us. At this age, all teens struggle to set themselves apart, to develop lives independent from our parents. For this reason, it is dangerous to associate the younger with the elder, especially when kids are left to wonder how to step up for their families without further damaging relationships with teachers, peers and others.
I am not exempt from small-town gossip. I find myself reading the Sunday jail report, scanning the names to see if anyone familiar comes up. Remaining anonymous in Steamboat Springs is relatively impossible, not only for kids whose names appear as frequently in the paper as the weather report, but also for athletes and students active within the community. But if the benefits include the support of most of Steamboat's residents, I guess it's worth the trade.