Growing Up in Vero Beach
By Chandler MacWilliam – writer for Shotguns & Seashells
What’s it like growing up in Vero Beach, FL?
You have to find your niche or you’re going to hate it. I personally think that’s why a lot of kids my age don’t come back…especially straight out of college.
My “niche” growing up was riding and showing horses, and is still my lifelong passion. I continue to ride for pleasure and remain active at the barn where I board my horse, Scout. I’m hoping to start back showing again in a few years. Aside from school, if I wasn’t traveling to horse shows or at the barn I was working at Polished and Quail Valley Fitness & Spa. Learning at a young age how to balance school, work, showing horses and my social life has helped me tremendously growing up. I’ve always been a busy bee; if I wasn’t I would have been bored out of my mind.
Because all of that it made me have a really good relationship with people in Vero Beach and even in Fort Pierce, where I also spent a lot of time in high school when my horses were boarded down there with my horse trainer. Without that I think part of me wouldn’t have been so drawn to coming back. It’s the people that make you want to come back. Or at least it is for me.
For school, I attended St. Edward’s School, where everyone knows everyone. My graduating class had less than 70 students. From Pre-K until my senior year of high school I had the privilege of building lifelong friendships and having teachers who were like family. I can’t begin to explain how grateful I am for the opportunities St. Edward’s provided me. Between private school and keeping a small social circle I’d say I lived a pretty sheltered life though. It didn’t occur to me until later on how blessed I was to have never experienced threatening circumstances that several American high schools deal with regularly.
It wasn’t until I moved away to college that I really realized how much I truly loved this town. I attended The University of Alabama for 4 years and am currently living in New York City finishing up a fashion internship with Tibi and I’ll be graduating this December. Neither of these places offers what Vero Beach can but they both sure did teach me a lot and helped me grow.
I take pride along with many others Vero Beach residents in this town for it’s deep-rooted history and family traditions. The beautiful Atlantic Ocean and Indian River Lagoon, as well as some of the finest agriculture, hunting and outdoor sporting surround us in Vero Beach. There is nothing better than having the luxury of being able to sunbathe at the beach or the pool in your backyard, take a boat cruise on the river and then walk down Ocean Drive to my favorite boutiques, salons, local eateries and bars. Or even go out horseback riding on a trail ride or better yet go on a cattle drive or deer hunting. I did all of this growing up and the best thing was that I never had to go more than 45 minutes to get to what I wanted to do. I never had to drive on large highways or be stuck in traffic (unless it’s A1A during season) to get to my destination.
My family has done a lot of great things for our affluential hometown and I’m looking forward to contributing with them in a few short months. My father, Alex “Buzz” MacWilliam III runs a Real Estate Company that has been around for 66 years that my grandfather Alex MacWilliam Jr started, and now my older brother, Alex MacWilliam IV has joined him. My great grandfather, Alex MacWilliam Sr also held the position as mayor for over 20 years. I know, it’s a lot of Alex’s to keep up with. Experiencing what my family has accomplished makes me proud of my last name and motivates me to work hard and be on my best behavior. So for me, growing up and continuing I always had to make sure I maintained a good reputation for my family and myself. My parents always made sure that I was polite and said my ‘hellos’ to people I knew and their friends. But I’m not going to lie and tell you I was always on my best behavior because there were times I wasn’t but that’s all a part of being young and growing up.
As I’ve gotten older it is important to establish reputable connections and relationships, as well as maintain an upright reputation. Like most small towns, it’s all about who you know! During my younger years it would bother me that I couldn’t go anywhere without running into someone I knew. Today, I love being greeted with hugs when I visit my favorite Ocean Drive spots and that people care about how I’m doing. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the kind gestures and special treatment perks. Plus, people are so supportive. I also run a fashion blog called Shotguns & Seashells and I’m constantly getting positive feedback on it from locals.
I had the best time of my life growing up in Vero Beach. Now that I’m an adult (that feels really weird to say) it’s my turn to build a legacy pursuing my professional goals and raising a family. Life may have been simpler when I was younger, but I personally believe living in Vero Beach only gets better with age.
So if you don’t love growing up and living here now give it time and find your niche! The quality of life in Vero Beach is one of the many reasons I’m proud to call it my home!
My favorite part about coming home after being gone for so long is driving over the 17th Street Bridge and on to the island. Growing up though I absolutely HATED having to drive over the 17th Street or Barber Bridge more than once a day back and forth I would get so annoyed. But getting to drive over the river and look out at the beach…now that’s living in paradise.
Like my father always said… “I was born lucky”!
Chandler MacWilliam is a lifelong Vero Beach resident, a Retail Fashion Major at the University of Alabama, and the writer and operator of Shotguns & Seashells (www.shotgunsandseashells.com), a fashion blog.