Sometimes I miss living in a small town

At an antique car show in the small town.

Up until a couple of years ago I lived in a small “town” in upstate New York. Although I technically lived in a city, it had fewer than 19,000 people. It was immediately surrounded by miles of farmland.

I was often lonely there. I would go for a walk on a dreery weekend day, only to pass by crows, an occasional senior citizen on a power wheelchair, and a few townies taking a cigarette break outside a bar.

There weren’t many people my age there, and the ones I met weren’t always my type of people. They were authentic alright, but they didn’t have much to talk about. They had lived in this city their whole lives, taken very few trips outside of upstate New York, and would likely be spending the rest of their lives in the same place.

My lack of connections in this small city meant I spent a lot of time in my apartment, cooking, watching movies, and listening to music on my computer. I took so much time for myself that I was always well rested, fulfilled by a poignant story, and full of tasty, healthy food.

And while I had few friends, the relationships I had were all so particular. I felt like I was living in a book. My one friend was a hunter who would give me pounds upon pounds of fresh meat after a successful outing. He was also a construction worker, who only had to work half the year. The rest of the year he spent schmoozing with friends in the bar, shaking his head when they played Rascal Flatts like they always did, and wondering if he’d ever find a companion. He had just turned 40, and after a ruined first marriage he didn’t know if he’d get lucky.

And then there was the displaced Frenchman, who lamented over how his so-called friends no longer kept in touch with him. But overall he was happy here. He had a lovely American wife, a good job with the county, and loved the surrounding rolling hills. While his family and friends were far away, he loved how in the United States, you can do what you want to do. You don’t have to be locked into your degree, he said. If there’s something that interests you mid-life, if you’re determined enough you can go out there and start doing it.

There was also the group that played poker Friday nights in my apartment building. One woman had fibromyalgia, another epilepsy, and another a deep secret. She had been raped by a family member when she was a teen, and forced to raise the child alone. The child was a beautiful girl, but you hoped she was getting the education she needed.

I was definitely ready to get out of this “town” when I did, but I often look back longingly on my time there. With a slower pace of life, less to do, and fewer people to bump into, your interactions seem more meaningful. You might not be talking with Harvard grads, or cosmopolitan twentysomethings, but your interactions are key in filling in the empty days.

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2 Comments on “Sometimes I miss living in a small town”

  1. Craig Says:

    I always wanted to live in a small town. But small towns have their problems as do cities. I lived in a small town in Ohio for a few years back in the 1990s. The people were very nice, but their educational levels could have been better (which makes me sound like a snob).

    They were warm and friendly to me. I know I came off as somewhat standoffish. More education? From the East Coast? I don’t know.

    My wife, who I met and married in Ohio, didn’t like it in Pennsylvania at all when we first moved here. She said the people were more reserved here compared to those in Ohio. I had to agree with her.

    Does higher education make you more distant? The more education you get, the less friendly you are? Chew on that for a while.

    In small towns, people appear to acceot things as they are. In cities, people seem to want more. There are more job opportunities in cities, while the lifestyle in smaller towns is more relaxed. You can’t seem to get both.

    We moved to a small college town in Pennsylvania. It turned into a boom-town afterwards. Traffic lights went in. Accidents began occurring regularly. The small intersection to get out of town was widened. Our small town is growing rapidly.

    I have never felt truly comfortable in cities, so I will probably always go for a smaller town if I can.

    • christinelaubenstein Says:

      Yeah, I definitely think people are more distant in cities. I miss going into a bar and having everyone know your name. Or going into a bar and striking up a conversation with various strangers. Here people don’t seem to interact with strangers as much. Maybe it’s because there’s so many people around we’re overwhelmed. Or because we’re less likely to see that stranger again. Or because it’s less likely we’ll find common ground with that stranger. Surely it’s due to a number of factors. That’s neat you’ve figured out you prefer smaller towns. At this point in my life I still haven’t decided. Here’s a list of some things I prefer about small towns and some things I prefer about cities.

      Small towns:

      -Everyone knows you
      -Traffic isn’t bad
      -Towns can have more of a distinct identity because they are small
      -You’re closer to farms
      -There are lots of community events that a large percentage of townspeople go to
      -Mom and pop stores
      -People accept things the way they are (stole this from you because it’s true!)
      -More traditions

      Cities:

      -Lots of interesting people
      -Lot of cultural opportunities
      -Lots of job opportunities
      -Better public transportation
      -Easier to get to other cities (by way of planes, buses or trains)

      These were off the top of my head. Looks like I put down more pros for small towns. Maybe that answers my question of whether I like cities or towns better.


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