Even though I have grown up in a big city, small towns hold a special place in my heart.
I was born in West Plains, Missouri, a very small town south of St. Louis and lived there until my mom and I moved to Charlotte when I was 5. I spent the summers visiting my dad and I really enjoyed my temporary experiences of living in a small town. Everyone seemed to know everyone and the pace was so much slower than Charlotte. People drove slower, took their time shopping, had time to stop and talk with friends – even the clocks seemed to tick slower. For a few brief weeks every summer I felt like I was living in Mayberry.
Since there wasn’t a lot to do in West Plains, when my dad wasn’t working we spent the time with family and friends. We would have dinners together, go “tubing” down the river, but mainly we just spent time together talking. Our entertainment was each other’s company.
It was a shock when I would come back to Charlotte. The traffic was so much faster, people spoke quicker and the adults around me seemed more stressed and rushed.
My other experience of small town living was during high school and college. I would spend my summers in Harbor Springs, Michigan, a small town in Northern Michigan. Yet again there was a slower pace and the people seemed more relaxed. We never bothered to lock the house or our cars – we would even leave the keys in the cars! Neighbors would stop by to see how your day was, or come over to help if they saw you working in the yard or on a project. I remember one time my aunt Bonnie and I were trying to pressure wash her porch and within 5 minutes of starting, 3 neighbors came over and offered to do it for us. You would see young kids riding their bikes through the neighborhood with no adults because everyone looked out for each other. It was a community, a village.
Big cities are great too – there are so many things to do and experience, but sometimes I wonder if it is too much – a bit of sensory overload. You never hear people refer to cities as “charming.” It is usually “exciting,” “bustling,” “busy,” “energetic.” Well, our bustling days are over.
You tend to experience a feeling of separation in a big city. There is more of a feeling of “me” and “mine” rather than “ours” and “us.” Since the pace is so much faster, there is also a lot more anxiety and stress. You feel like you have to go faster just to keep up. It is definitely a challenge to find a slower pace in a big city because you are surrounded by such a fast-moving environment. Once you leave your house you get caught up in the flow.
Kevin and I realized that if we wanted a slower pace we had to leave the city. We want to experience the charm and closeness of a small town all year long. We are ready to have a new experience – to step out of our comfort zone and spread our wings. We realize that the time is now – while our boys are still young enough that all they want to do is be with us.
This is the moment – because you never know what will happen tomorrow. I thought I would have years and years to spend with my mom, my best friend, but she died suddenly with no warning. It was devastating. But it did lead to my “waking-up,” my desire to find my truth – my own path. We simply have no idea how much time we have with each other. But we do have right now. The future hasn’t happened; the past is behind us; all that is real is the present moment – so make the most of it.