10 struggles every small town girl living in a big city will understand

I’ve lived in New York for about seven years, and I can almost trick people into thinking I’m from here. Almost. But the truth is that even though I’ve been running around a big city for most of my adult life, that’s not where I started out. I come from a very small town. How small? Let’s just say there were 50 kids in my high school’s graduating class and I’ve known most of them since elementary school. And there were cows on my campus. And…well, you get the picture. And while there are some things I’ve grown out of since living there, there are some weird things about being in the big city while being from a small town:

1. I’m still friends with people I knew when I was 6.

A lot of my hometown friends are people I’ve known since I was really little. I remember eating play dough under the table with my high school valedictorian. I attended the wedding of a girl I played Spice Girls with on the playground. I often crash on the couch with the girl who sat next to me in first grade. Yeah, people think it’s weird that there are adults I have friendships with that have known me since before I could read and write, but to us it’s normal. There weren’t that many people in my small town, so when you picked a friend you had a friend for life.

2. I probably won’t get your pop culture references.

There are so many things people will bring up from their childhood that go over my head since we didn’t really have TV, and neither did my friends. On top of that, cool trends took a few extra years to get to us, so what we thought was cool probably won’t match up with what you thought was cool. I can tell you all about the imaginary games we played growing up, or how we’d drive two hours to go to the mall or get ice cream in the next town over, or how as we got older we’d have parties in the woods or go on hikes, but that’s about it. No, I’m not a time traveler, that is the stuff we actually got up to in my small town.

3. I will always feel like the weird kid, no matter what.

I won’t lie, as kid who was into art and hated sports, I stuck out like a sore thumb in my small town. I think normally that wouldn’t have been a problem, but I think when there are less kids in general, if you’re even a tiny bit weird you get to be the weird kid, since there are fewer kids to pick from. When I graduated high school I was so excited to get to the city and be around more like-minded peers. However, much to my surprise, when I got here I was still the weird kid. Not because of my interests, but because I grew up in a small town and there was a big learning curve in terms of everything from knowing what was cool to knowing how to navigate the subway. The truth is all that stuff doesn’t matter. You’re going to be you no matter where you go, and now that I’m older I wear my ‘weird’ badge with pride.

4. I don’t feel the need to keep up.

Things move at a slower pace in the countryside. Summer was about barbecuing with my family or lying on the beach by the local lake. Winter was about curling up in front of a fire and reading. In NYC the pace is breakneck, and it’s very easy to feel pressure to follow suit. However, my intrinsic small town upbringing makes it hard for me to feel that concerned. I’m still ambitious, but I don’t think my world is going to end if I sit in the park and read all day, or watch Netflix at night in lieu of going out. I know it’s okay to take things slow every once in a while.

5. I’m not glued to my smartphone.

Growing up in my town there was no service, and everyone knew where everything was. I had a Nokia flip phone toward the tail end of my senior year of high school, but it was mostly a useless hunk of metal. I thought of my phone as this weird machine that would turn on during the few times I went to a town or city big enough for cell service, and then I’d use it to call my parents and tell them I was okay and would be home soon. Entering a world where service was everywhere and everyone was already addicted to their phones was a rude awakening. I now own a smartphone, but I still encounter constant friction for being someone who just isn’t glued to it. If I’m hanging out with someone, I would rather sit and talk. I see fooling around on the Internet as something to do alone, and texting as something you do when you want to meet up with someone.

6. Making new friends was a learning curve.

It’s a well-documented fact that I’m a shy girl. I’ve learned to adapt as I’ve gotten older, but coming from a small town certainly didn’t do me any favors. Since I grew up knowing everyone already, when I got to the city I was completely unequipped to make new friends. I had no idea how to do it. I was used to my friends being people I had known for years, and not having to worry about meeting anyone new. After a few years living in the city I eventually got over my fear of telling people that I think they’re cool and they should hang out with me, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little rough at first.

7. Silence doesn’t bother me.

Growing up in a small town I’d often be home alone in a house with no one around, in a completely silent neighborhood, with only a landline for communication. I’ve only realized recently realized that this basically the beginning of every horror movie ever, and that the prospect of it terrifies many city dwellers. However, I’m not one of them. As much as I’m used to being in a small apartment with people everywhere I go, I still know how to make myself at home alone in a wide open space.

8. I have some weird outdoor skills.

It doesn’t come up unless someone talks about it, but yes, I know random facts about the Appalachian Mountains, and I know how to tie knots and use a Leatherman knife for camping. I can also name birds and other strange outdoor creatures because I encountered them a lot growing up. I know how to look out for deer when I’m driving on the road, which snakes to avoid if I see them on a hiking trail, and which ticks to avoid. In short, I’m outdoorsy. And if you get me started I’ll probably start pouring out more facts about wildlife than you ever wanted to know. (Sorry city friends!)

9. Over-politeness.

I’ve only recently started to grow out of this, but one of my biggest small town traits was being overly polite about everything. I think it comes from the fact that when you know everyone in town you don’t want to upset anyone or get a reputation for being mean. Also, half the time if you meet a stranger they’re going to know someone you already know, so there is really no point in being mean, because it will come back to bite you eventually. So you often find yourself being overly nice even when you didn’t want to be. Luckily (or unluckily) New York has made quick work of this habit, but at the end of the day I’m still the girl who is going to apologize when you step on my toe.

10. Craving alone time.

Because of the distance between my friend’s houses, I would often find myself alone a lot after school or on the weekends. It wasn’t anything bad; it was just a reality of living far apart from each other in the country. I miss that sometimes when I’m in the city, since everyone is so nearby at all times. Even when I’m alone at home my roommates aren’t that far away, and if I go outside there will be people all over the place. Sometimes it’s hard not to miss the true, by yourself feeling that you would get in the country.

While I’ve come along way from being a teenaged girl living in a small, country town, I realize now that I’m older the traits that are leftover are things I really like about myself. Yeah, not everyone can peg me as being from a small town on sight anymore, but that’s still who I am. And the cool thing is now that I’m older I can really appreciate and cherish these differences in my upbringing. Growing up in a small town was weird, but it made me who I am today.