I was born in a town of about 3000 people, and lived in a township of (I think) 125 out in rural South Otago. All through my teenage years we did the usual rural stuff - lighting stuff on fire, drinking and smoking, having sex at 14, hooning around the farms in paddock-bashers. Regular fucking idiots.
Then the end of high school came and half of our school year (30 people) went to Universities around the country. I went up the road no more than an hour yet I was fuckin' dead to everyone back home. I'd known them pretty much my entire life and we'd formed countless memories together but going back in the first mid-year break? Going to the pub was an ordeal because they wouldn't talk to me. I'd left the farming area and now I was a townie. Like suddenly I had forgotten how to shear a sheep and order the farm dogs.
They came around eventually, but there was some kind of betrayal they appeared to have felt in regards to people leaving their little nest. I'm on good terms with most people once more, but it took an effort to prove I wasn't a "townie" or more accurately, to prove that being a "townie" isn't a bad thing. Better weed, more things to do - just don't bring up the country vs town rugby 'rivarly' (if you can call country losing for the past 80 years a rivalry) and you're fine. One friend turns 31 this year, lives with his parents and refuses to get his license or a job. I'm not quite giving up on him, but boy we've run out of ideas.
Anyway I echo your thoughts, seeing how everyone reacted to me leaving reinforced my decision to do so. I was glad I left, I became a much more well-rounded person (eventually). I wouldn't give up the memories I made for anything, but I'm making new ones now and they're just as important.But man, 23! I went from being 21, drinking absinthe and racing down an icy street on a fridge door, to being 29 living with my partner and cat with our weekends spent gardening, watching movies or going to the beach. But I wanted this softer life after all the havoc I caused. I'm not peaked yet and I don't see that happening till my late 30s or early 40s if that.
You've not even come close to peaking!