Photo by Emily Long
Growing up in a small town with narrow views of the world felt suffocating at times. I went to a small private school where I saw the same 50 or so faces every day, and the highlights of our weekends were either going to someone’s house to watch a movie or crashing another school’s football game. Let’s just say there wasn’t a whole lot going on. By the time college applications were being filled out and dreams formed, I knew one thing: I needed to get out of this town. Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia. I was to experience different cultures and to make friends because we had things in common beyond our location. A few days after my 19th birthday, I broke free of my small town and found myself in Philadelphia.
I loved city life. I spent seven years between Philly and DC, feeling convinced I was meant to be in a big city. Then came the day that I needed to decide if I was going to continue living in a city that I could barely afford or start over in a new place. After several rounds of interviews I accepted a job in a small Virginia town. I was picking myself up and moving someplace surrounded by mountains and farms where I barely knew a soul. While I’d never admit it at the time, I was scared shitless.
Let’s be honest, my first three months in a small town were really hard. I tried my best to make friends, adjust to my new job, and find something to do on the weekends. The transition took time, but after two years in this small town I can genuinely say that my quality of life has greatly improved and that I love being a part of this community. I am no longer a nameless face on the metro, but will regularly run into friends or acquaintances no matter where I am. Work days actually end by 5:30pm, commute times rarely exceed 20 minutes, and there is time to enjoy hobbies or just a beer with friends. This small town doesn’t understand what it means to rush, things move at a slower pace. Moving here felt like I had finally exhaled. There are certainly challenges to living in a small town (don’t get me started on dating) but my career has excelled and I am happy.
I thought that in order to have a job and life that was fulfilling I needed to be in a big city, with a corporate ladder to climb and a fancy job title. The opportunities might look a little different now, but I moved into a leadership role far faster than I ever would have expected. Not only have I found a job that is meaningful, but I have time to enjoy my life. I have a small group of really great friends, I’m connected to the running community, and I have a CSA share where the head farmer knows my name. This little town has charmed its way into my heart and made me realize that I can be happy as a small town girl after all.