The clichéd small town life consists of the quaint feeling of simplicity. On Main Street – which is basically the only street – there are a couple of dive bars, the local coffee and gift shop, the only grocery store in town, the thrift store that most likely contains clothes as old as the town itself, and a few Christian churches. People drive slow and walk even slower. Everyone knows everyone, and most people are actually related. This is what I first experienced when I started living in a small town.
I am a 20-year-old college student working near my college town in my first summer away from home. I found a summer job as a housekeeper at a prestigious fly fishing lodge. The pay is phenomenal, the area is breathtakingly beautiful and the bosses and employees are amazing. I fell in love with the job and the people. I began to spend time with the housekeepers outside of work. I met their families and friends. We went out to the lake, restaurants, bars and parties. They included me in everything and became my family away from home.
My first perception of this small town, however, was only superficial. After a month, I desperately wanted to quit and move. I felt isolated and unwelcome. I began to notice subtle signs. Girls stared at me. They would not talk to me and most did not even know me, but they stared at me. Then I began to hear what people would say about me, and eventually, they began to say these things to me. I could tell you something about 90 percent of the people in a room of which none of them could tell you my last name.
I kept wondering why I wasn’t accepted. I thought maybe it was me. I honestly cried about it. I had a breakdown and called my sister, then my brother and finally my mom. I have never quit anything and sadly it wasn’t even the job I wanted to quit. I wanted to escape the constant judgment and isolation I felt in this small town. I decided that I would treat the job as just a job and avoid getting close to the lodge employees in hopes of escaping a social life in the small town. That lasted a whole day. My bosses noticed something was wrong in less than two minutes into work.
I could not leave or quit, I love my job and the people I work with too much. But I had to realize why the friends and acquaintances of my coworkers would not accept me. I thought a lot about it.
Here is my conclusion:
Everyone I met was born, raised and still remain in that town. Most people, even my own age, have never left. I am not accepted because I am not one of them. I am an outsider – which can be interpreted as a threat or something new to gossip about. Being a stranger in a small town requires a lot of strength and persistence. The best thing I did was deciding to stay. I have met my best friend and gained two amazing mom-like figures. I had to learn to not assume that everyone was like the people I met. I had to learn to see the beauty and positives in a small town, not just the negatives. But most importantly, I had to learn to not let the judgments of others affect me. It is a painful lesson to learn, but one of the most rewarding. Rather than seeking acceptance in a small town, I have learned how to accept myself. I would not trade that experience for anything.