I grew up in a small town. Like, a really small town. I’m talking about a town that you can walk completely across in no time, a population of 3,000, and a graduating class of 68 people from the only school in the district.
Yeah. So I grew up in a small town. And I couldn’t wait to leave.
Throughout my high school career, I literally counted down the days until graduation. I yearned for the city, for the culture, and mostly, for things to do. As soon as I got accepted into a college 3 hours away from home, the waiting became even harder. I was the only person from my high school in the past four years to go to my college, so I wouldn’t know anyone there. It was going to be a whole new adventure for me.
It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized how different my life was from everyone else I was going to school with.
My new friends talked about their graduating classes of 200, 500, 1,000, or more. They said they didn’t know everyone they walked with to get their diplomas. When they went to the store, they wouldn’t stop and talk to anyone whereas I would see at least 3 people I knew before I even got there. They’ve never been to their county fair. They’ve never had eggs or milk fresh from the farm. It completely flabbergasted me.
Did I miss out on big-city life, or did they miss out on small-town life?
Now that I live only 20 minutes from Cleveland, I carry pepper spray at night. I walk down the street and don’t see a single person I know. I don’t go to garage sales, and I don’t go to farmer’s markets. It’s just a totally different lifestyle than what I grew up with. I go to Starbucks and art museums and symphonies and plays. It’s not that it’s bad; it’s just different.
The fact of the matter is that people in big cities have a totally wrong idea of what it’s really like to grow up in a small town. They’re not romantic like you see in movies or read about in books—what’s so romantic about having the same twenty people to date from kindergarten until the day you graduate high school? We don’t have cute shops, we have corn and cows. And we never actually get that cool new kid that TV shows love to make their main characters. But what we do have is something so much better: community.
I’ve witnessed firsthand the way people in my small town come together, whether it be in times of celebration or times of tragedy. Most of the people that live in my village are either family or close enough to be considered family. Neighbors still come over to ask for sugar. We have community bake sales. All you have to do is mention your parents’ or grandparents’ names and everyone immediately knows who you are. A small, loving community helps to shape everyone who ever has the honor of being in it, including me.
So even though I’m a city girl now, my small little hometown will always hold a special place in my heart. There may be more to do where I live now, but the people whom I grew up with are irreplaceable—and I’ll bet all 3,000 of us would agree.