Eight months and two weeks ago I left city life, apartment life, and 9-to-5-florescent-lights life behind me to return to the suburbs. And not just the next town over suburbs. I'm talking about 25 miles outside the city suburbs, the kind where the train takes 45-50 minutes to get you downtown.
And I love it.
Growing up in the burbs was great and I didn't think of myself as a city person until college. I fell in love with sidewalks and subways and ease of access to a million different things I couldn't even list if I tried. Moving home for a year post graduation when the economy was in the tank was rough. I was optimistic about my prospects, but an hour away from the city after four years of being a walking personification of the LOVE statue...ugh.
I was obnoxious and found my home to be full of "townies", as if every place doesn't have its "Glory Days" lifers. There was nothing to do. There was nowhere to go, especially if you didn't have a car. You could walk into the small town, but half of the walk was on a speedy road without sidewalks.
Oh, how I missed those sidewalks.
Then I got the miracle call of a job downtown in my field, and boom! I was a city girl once again! Living in a new neighborhood that gave me a scenic and safe 30 minute walk to work, proximity to great bus lines and affordable shopping...this was the life.
Sometimes, what we think we want isn't what we want at all. Or maybe we do want it, but our opinion and desire dwindles over time. Joining the local swimming pool doesn't make you an Olympian, and taking violin lessons doesn't mean you get to lead orchestras. Most of the time, it's you. You know you don't practice enough or maybe you didn't have enough of the raw talent (Yes, I am of the "you can accomplish anything!" mindset, but come on. You can't be a surgeon if you faint every time you see blood, and you can't run marathons if you have a heart condition that doesn't allow it.) And sometimes, your teacher or coach doesn't really care and if you don't have the means to find another one, the mental anguish can beat you down.
After three and a half years, the city and my industry were both too gray, too noisy, too sad. I still loved many aspects of them, but like a dear friend who's gotten into some stuff you don't agree with, I needed to take a step back. A giant step back. A quit your job without a 100% solid plan or other position lined up kind of step back. A move back to your hometown even though you're expecting the same annoyances step back because at least it's green there instead of gray.
And then I fell in love again.
My town had grown up in such a short time. More businesses popped up and helped each other out. People were actually coming here as a destination instead of just passing through, or, as a local said how it used to be 30 years ago, "avoiding it completely."
There's a big difference between small town life out in the middle of nowhere and small town life that with sprawling neighborhoods and surrounding towns. When you're isolated, it gets weird. No place or person is perfect, but at least when your tiny town is part of a larger whole and is beloved by people from all walks of life, you get the friendliness and diversity of an earnest community instead of glares from the clique known as You're-Not-From-Here-Are-You.
(And the city definitely has its share of multiple You're-Not-From-Here-Are-You cliques, so you need to change attitudes between neighborhoods, between single blocks, between the length of crossing a one-way street.)
I've been incredibly lucky to find fellow locals and small town transplants who stay out of those cliques. They are welcoming, excited to be here, and genuinely concerned for the well being of fellow locals and local businesses, whether or not they are in competition or know them personally. After years of meeting amazing people who end up being Red Riding Hood's wolf in her grandma's clothes, it's nice to walk through the dark woods, get to Grandma's house, and find that it's actually Grandma inside.
Grandma isn't perfect. She has some outdated ideas and forgets things and really hates the neighbor's cat, but she's comfortable. She's loving. She shares her cookies and wisdom. She has the best dog in the world. She's willing to learn new things and is excited to hear about your journeys - through the woods and beyond. And she wants to help you on any future journey that she can.
Grandma knows she has changed since her youth, for better or worse, and knows that she and everyone around her will continue to change forever. But she smiles and welcomes Change to have tea with you both and you learn a lot.
I went over the river and through the woods and sang some David Bowie along the way, but I made it back to my small town hometown and finally wake up to look out my window and smile.