Seven years ago I moved 350 miles away from the small town where I spent the second half of my childhood.
This was something I started thinking about almost as soon as we moved there. It wasn’t a dangerous or terrible place to live by any means…I was just never very good at small town life. I like being able to go to the grocery store without running into anyone I know, to never be asked why I don’t share a last name with my husband, go to church or have kids.
I love the anonymity and creativity of Toronto. Here I’m surrounded by people who, even if they don’t share my proclivities, genuinely don’t care what it is I do (or believe) so long as I’m not harming anyone else against their will.
This. Is. Amazing. 10, 15 years ago I had no idea I’d end up with this kind of freedom.
Then I go home for a visit. The town I grew up in hasn’t changed very much. Many of the people I grew up with still live there or in similar places elsewhere in the midwest.
Most of my non-traditional (for lack of a better term) friends have also moved away. I grok why this happens. If I moved back now I’d either have to be really, really quiet about huge swaths of my life or pull a Bruce Gerenscer and be the brunt of a delightful mixture of pity, scorn and failed conversion attempts. 😉
After my recent trip back home, though, I wonder if small towns don’t need more Bruce Gerenscers.
Does he perplex people?
Does he aggravate them?
Does he make them think?
I don’t really do that on a daily basis. City-dwellers are surrounded by so many different points of view that it’s more difficult for them to assume that everyone agrees with their beliefs. It’s hard to surprise them.
As much as I love this sometimes I think it’s better if us “shocking” people stay put. It’s much easier to dislike a label than it is to dislike a neighbour, family member, or friend.
There’s real value in being the only X in town, in putting a human face on a mistrusted minority group.
I just don’t want to do it personally.
What have been your experiences as the odd one out in your community? Why did you move away? Why did you stay?