As small towns go, mine isn’t teeny-small — our city limits population is about 27,000, and county-wide the size is double that. We’re within spitting distance of a metro area with 100,000+ people (which is where I work). Bigger cities are within a 3 hour drive from here, and we can get to Chicago in a easy day’s drive. Many people consider our little spot on the planet to be the most perfect place to live because of these factors.
Living in a small town has its’ advantages. I count the head of the tourism commission and the mayor as personal friends. I can walk from my house to downtown in just a short time. Most people know me, or my mother, or some other member of my family. My town is the kind of town where the old geezers sit on park benches overlooking the river and tell stories. Every Monday night there is a community bike ride around town, available for anyone who wants to ride. The downtown sandwich shop is the place to see and catch up with everyone you know at lunchtime.
Really, it’s a slice of Way-Back America.
But (and you should know me well enough by now to know there would be a “but”) living here sometimes makes me very crazy.
For all the charm that my town posesses, there is a lack of progressiveness that chafes me. As with most small towns, the select few run the whole show, and they want to keep the status quo, well, quo. It’s pretty dull and dry around here.
I guess because I am from here, I want to be away from here. I’m not a big-city girl by any means, but I do appreciate the draws that a larger city has to offer. And because I tend to have a private streak in me, I like the anonymity that you can find in a larger city.
This lightbulb moment came to me as I was perusing the potential friends list on Facebook and deciding if I really, really wanted to friend my senior class president, or any of the number of popular kids from my high school 25 years ago. It’s been 25 years, for pete’s sakes, and I don’t think I’m really all that interested in what they’re up to now. Hell, I doubt I’ll even go to my 25th class reunion.
Perhaps I would appreciate this place more if I lived away from here. Hometowns are more charming if you see them through the twin lenses of time and distance. In 25 years I have not been successful in building a life independent of where I grew up. It’s a regret that continues to grow every passing year.
The rub is, I have put down some very deep roots here. On my pro-con list of staying vs. going, the staying side contains numerous points, while the going side merely lists “being away from here.” Hardly compelling enough of a reason to up and go, says the ever-practical side of me.