That’s the answer I give when people ask where I’m from. That’s about 25 miles off, but nobody knows where Murphy, Texas, is, nor does anyone really care.
That’s the thing about Murphy. It’s not a large town – with the population around 19,000 – but it’s surrounded by giants like Dallas and Plano. Murphy is pressured from all sides to keep up with the ever-changing, ever-urbanizing world around it.
When my family moved in, our house was the first one completed on our street. All we had was a crab-grass infested soccer field, a rickety wooden park, Neighborhood Walmart, a Shell gas station on the 544 and a lot of land.
Our first neighbors moved in across the street a few months later. The Baldwins. My siblings and I immediately befriended their kids. We didn’t have other options.
I began kindergarten the fall of 2001. It was a 20-minute drive to the school, Stinson Elementary. I only attended Stinson for one year before a brand-new elementary school called Boggess opened two blocks away from my house. The next year, a new middle school opened across the two lanes of Murphy Road.
That’s when everything began to change.
Boggess and Murphy Middle were in the Murphy city limits, but they belonged to the Plano Independent School District. PISD is in the top 100 school districts in America – which is a big deal when you take into account that there are over 13,000 school districts in the US. The prestige of the district attracted families. There was a reputation to uphold and standards to be met.
The first standardized test we took was the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills – the TAKS test – in third grade. The test wasn’t administered until April, but we spent most of the year prepping for it. The teachers pressured us so they wouldn’t lose their jobs. We pressured ourselves so we wouldn’t get held back a grade. I marched into school that day with my pencils sharpened and my hands shaking. The day was spent in strict silence as we took our tests.
Sixth grade came and it was time to take electives and join clubs. But not for fun; we had to plan for college. We needed scholarships and achievements to enhance our resumes. I participated in orchestra, Spanish, theatre, debate, National Junior Honors Society, National Honors Society and enrolled in all honors classes. Grades were of the utmost importance.
As I grew up, so did the town. Mr. Baldwin, my first neighbor, was elected mayor and carried out big plans. The Neighborhood Walmart closed and a Super Walmart opened on the other side of the yellow soccer field. The trains that passed our neighborhood weren’t allowed to blow their horns anymore. They were too noisy for the city. Murphy Road was expanded from two lanes to six and the city installed stoplights at every intersection along the road. The speed limit increased to 45 miles per hour. Next to Murphy Middle School, McMillen High was built, where freshmen and sophomores attended before going to Plano East Senior High.
In the fall of 2012 I started junior year at PESH, where keeping up was nearly impossible. AP and IB classes weren’t just encouraged – they were expected. Extra-curricular activities and GPA defined identities. During senior year, constant scandals broke out between the students in the Top 10 of our class. Cheating, bribery, threats, betrayal – all in the sacred name of Valedictorian. No one in the Top 10 had real friends.
Neither did anyone in my neighborhood, anymore. As new subdivisions popped up all around mine, Windy Hill Farms became old and undesirable. No one wanted to stay long. These houses were temporary living situations until they found bigger estates in Rolling Ridge or on Dublin Road. My family almost moved several times, but we never actually did. We were the first ones to move in our street, and the last ones remaining.
My graduating class was the biggest in the nation in 2014, with 1,635 students. The ceremony lasted four hours.
I don’t go home much now that I’ve left. Strangely, it doesn’t feel like home anymore. The city never looks the same and the people come and go far too often to keep track of.
Murphy has raised some pretty accomplished people. There have been a few actors – like Thomas Mann and Spencer Boldman – and NFL players – like Keenan Robinson – but it’s also churned out a lot of people who will never be quite satisfied with their lives.
That’s the thing about Murphy. It’s not a large town, but it pretends to be. The city itself and the people there are always competing with the giants around them. There’s unceasing pressure to be bigger and to be more than what you are. Everyone says they love it, but no one stays longer than they have to. Roads widen, people graduate with 5.0 GPAs and they never stop pursuing the next big thing.