Two Homes: What it is Like Living in a Small Town and the City

        I myself find myself to be quite fortunate when it comes to exposure to different cultures. While there are many individuals with a wider spectrum, as an 18 year old I’d say I have a decent amount. I was born in Seattle, Washington, and then moved to a small town called Pella, in Iowa around the age of 10. I spent the majority of my rememberable youth there, and I loved it. But the cultural differences were something I couldn’t help but overlook when I would go back to WA to visit, and a combination of interest in a “new” place and various other factors lead me to make a pretty drastic decision. Freshly 17 years old, I chose to move back to Washington to do my senior year. It took quite a bit of time to think over the move, as all of my best friends and people I was close with were still in Iowa, but my dad still resided in my hometown, Everett, so with a place to go, I left.  

        It was plenty weird at first, I missed my friends, my cats, and the small town I’d also grown to call home, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more out there. I started my senior year in September of 2017 at Glacier Peak High School. Compared to my previous institution, the environment was crazy. Going from under 800 students to about 2000 was wild for sure. For instance, when we would get a new student in Pella, everyone knew who they were by the first week. We knew everyone’s name in our class and there was always a curiosity on who the new member was and how they would fit in. I was lowkey expecting the same thing at GP, but boy was I surprised. I hardly talked to anyone that first week and quickly realized I had gotten myself into something much different than I had originally thought. There was almost something different in the air, a feeling of freeness almost because I knew no one, no one knew me, and I could reinvent myself into who I wanted to be without the constraints from the people I’d grown up with.  

        One of the first differences I noticed was the way people dressed. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of basic females and athletic looking boys, the standard dress for Pella, but there were so many more outliers they created their own group. People stood out here and unlike in Pella, where it was mildly discouraged to look different or stray from the norm, it was accepted! People expressed themselves so much more, and with little to no ridicule from peers. This factor was so freeing, as someone who has still not heard the end of wearing leggings donned in cat’s freshman year. Since there were so many people there, they cared less about what you looked like, it just wasn’t an issue as big as it was in Pella, people had more pressing issues to care about.  

        The same goes for how you act and what you do. Don’t get me wrong, GP had plenty of gossip and drama, but in my opinion not nearly as much as Pella. You do one “wrong” thing in a small town, and everyone, even the next town over, has heard about it. It makes sense because let’s face it, it’s Iowa, not much goes on. But the unnecessary focus on what others were doing/have done was much less in Washington. People had better things to do then talk crap about some person they don’t even know. It was freeing, liberating, and made me way more comfortable with my move. And much easier to express who I was without the fear of what others thought.  

        I know I’ve said a lot of maybe “negative” things about Pella, but besides the B.S that goes on, there are a lot of benefits to living in a small town. For one, when you know everyone in your class, it creates a sense of unity that you don’t find in large schools. Being able to name nearly everyone you walk by in the halls, and having grown up with a majority of them was so nice. You create really strong bonds and friendships, with countless memories from dumb cornfield activities. With not much to do, you get more creative and spend more time just with each other, genuinely enjoying each others presence is a special thing, the definition of making something out of nothing. The town itself had perks as well, with a population of 10,000, you are almost guaranteed to see someone you know anywhere you go. It’s a blessing and a curse because sometimes you just want to go to Walmart looking like a hobo and not see anyone you know, but chances are there are people from your school Walmarting or a cashier that’s also a family friend. One of my favorite things was that is when you’re just driving around, a common activity for the youth of Pella, you’ll see peers doing the same thing! Countless times I've been driving, and my friends and I will see someone we know, and chase them, playing “car tag”. It may sound dumb and trivial to some, but to us small towners, it’s our culture. The small town perimeters are the reason I can drive on gravel, am always on the lookout for deer in the road, and have such a strong sense of community when I visit.  

        Overall, I feel blessed to have lived in two such drastically different environments. The carefree attitude of GP and anonymity of a big city is freeing and allows you to be your complete self without limitations. While the close-knit community of a small town creates more than just a community, it creates a really big family. Sure, not all of us get along, but we still share the same small town in the middle of cornfields, and when that’s the case, you just adjust to coexisting. Best of all, I feel so blessed to have two places, 1,800 miles apart, I can call home.  

        I’d say I’m very pleased with my decision ultimately. It’s an adventure, and while I miss my friends and my town, there’s more to the world and I want to see it. And if you feel the same way, like you’re stuck where you’re at, you can break out!!! One of the biggest mistakes I think a person can make is not exploring the world. There are so many people, cultures, and experiences to be had. So even if it scares you, do it. Sometimes the best things in life are the most intimidating, but that doesn't mean they’re not worth it.