I grew up in a declining small town. I’ve written before about why I’ll always be a city person, but I’ve never explicitly stated that I actively hate small towns. This is both specifically about my hometown and small towns in general because most small towns share the same lack of opportunity.
Before my husband died, he made me promise not to ever move back to our small town in Michigan, no matter how lonely or depressed I got after losing him. He fully believed that I’d die early if I moved back there.
I generally try to be very accepting of different people and their choices, so I thought long and hard before writing this piece. No offense is intended toward anyone who lives in a small town and loves it there; you do you. But I am definitely not like you in any way.
It’s about the mindset
No, I’m not saying that all people who live in small towns have this mindset; I happen to know that they don’t because my husband and I didn’t, and I still have friends there who don’t. But the majority of them do.
They’re trapped in an environment with very little to offer, but they convince each other that where they are is just fine. Nobody new ever moves in (except for executives at the chemical plant), and most people have been in the area for multiple generations. Maintaining often-toxic family bonds matters more than being able to survive. A high percentage of residents have never left the state at all, even on vacations; most of them don’t have paid vacations, anyway. Young pregnancies are surprisingly common despite the lack of resources to raise a child (which includes me, although we expected to have more resources at the time and we would have if we’d never moved back home), and so is finding many women becoming grandmothers many times over well before age 45, because everybody’s just searching for something they can count on to remain the same. Most of the people who have remained in my town still hang out with the same people they did in high school and by now, most of those who have remained single have dated each other at some point. Unsurprisingly, the smaller the town, the more likely they are to be highly conservative because they just don’t want anything else to ever change, goddammit. To them, change equals fear and loss, never personal…