Like John Mellencamp, I grew up in a small town and I lived in a small town. Whereas he loved it, I hated it most of the time. Oh, how I wanted to be like Mary Tyler Moore and move into a really cool apartment and have a really awesome job. I dreamed of being a big city girl. I thought I would hang out at art museums, listen to symphonies, drink fancy beverages, write awesome prose and basically just be very bohemian (a word I had to look up before wanting to become it).
I always put off my dream of writing because I had not experienced anything. I thought only living in a city like New York or Chicago would give me the cred I needed to write and to be cool. I have already established from other blog posts, that when God was giving out coolness I must have been in the ladies room or quite possibly taking a nap. Cool is not who I am.
Let me tell you about my two days in New York City. I was given an opportunity to visit New York City for a travel coordinator’s seminar. I jumped at the chance and packed my bags. I had been to Chicago many times and Los Angeles too. I figured New York was going to be the place I fell in love with, the place that would change my life.
The plane landed in Newark and from that moment on I hardly drew a breath. All the people, all the commotion and the overall bigness of everything started to overwhelm me. Every movie I had ever seen about NYC flooded my memory all at once. I somehow got into a cab (which was way smaller than I had imagined it to be) and got to my hotel. When I got out of the cab, the city noises were almost deafening.
I finally got to my room on the 12th floor. I quickly bolted the door and placed a chair in front of it for added security. I slowly moved toward the window and looked out. Buildings were everywhere, as far as I could see. Even that far up all I could hear were car horns and sirens. The sidewalks were wall-to-wall people. More people on one street than lived in my entire hometown. I gingerly moved over to the corner of the room, fell to the floor hugging my knees and stayed in a fetal position for most of that first day. Overwhelmed did not begin to cover how I felt.
Not sure if or when I even slept, most of the day was a blur. I had obligations to fulfill regarding this trip so I made myself get out and go to the seminar. After it was done, I walked to the Chrysler Building thinking it was the Empire State Building. That is how “cosmopolitan” I was. At home, I always considered myself so citified, when in reality I was really just a small town girl and New York City was not the place for me. I was lost and afraid the entire time I was there. I walked to Times Square which was larger than I thought it would be but at the same time smaller than I thought it would be. It seemed very surreal to me.
Saddened on the way home, I realized that all my grand dreams were just that…dreams. Nothing was as I had thought it would be. I was pathetic in the big city. I was so very sad when it hit me that I was just small town.
Fast forward to North Carolina. I stayed in Asheville for a while. Asheville is in no way similar to NYC but it is a fair size town with lots of people. I never felt secure there. I never felt like I fit in. It is a lovely town with lovely people but it just was not for me. Then I found Bryson City. A town more like where I came from. My comfort level went through the roof. This town fit me and I fit it. Everyone literally knows everyone else. The people in the diners are friendly as are the shop owners. There is a slower pace that small towns have that I require in order to thrive.
I cannot live under the constant pressure of a big city. I can do without the over-abundance of micro-breweries and dance clubs. I like shopping at Family Dollar and Freds. I do not need specialty shops and fancy places. My heart is heavy that I am really not as cool as I once thought I was, but I understand it now. Some people are made for the big city and some are not. I am not. I am learning to embrace my small town attitude and be thankful that I, at least, got to see a few big towns in my life. I guess part of the journey is finding out not only what works but what doesn’t.
I guess, like John, I will probably die in a small town and I am finally ok with that.