10 Things I Learned After Leaving a Small Town

Growing up, I moved around constantly. In my lifetime (if I'm remembering right) I believe I’ve lived in between nine and 11 houses (although I was always, unfortunately, still in Florida). We rarely stayed in one place for more than two years. That being said, I've never lived in a big city; it was always one small town after another. The people here seem to think that Tallahassee itself is a small town but trust me when I say that when you grew up in some of the ghost towns I have, Tallahassee can feel like New York City. However, all the years I spent dreaming about moving off to a big city and spreading my wings could never have prepared me for what was ahead. Stepping out of that small-town bubble was a frightening move and it came with a few life lessons: 

1. You Are Very Small

When you live in a small town, everyone knows everything about everybody. Sometimes, it can feel like the entire world revolves around you. Not in an arrogant way; it’s just that whenever your entire world is only a few square miles, sometimes it’s hard to remember that anything else exists beyond its borders. Leaving your small town can be incredibly humbling and make you realize just how wide the world really is. When you leave, you meet so many diverse, new people. You realize that the world does not, in fact, revolve around you; you are only one star in its galaxy. 

2. You Can Choose Your Family

Blood isn't always thicker than water. This isn’t to say that you have to give up your blood family; it’s just to say that you will meet so many new people. Let them in. Take a chance on trusting them and caring about them. Allow people to grow close to you, cultivate some of that unconditional love you save for your family and invest it in your new family as well. Family doesn’t have to be blood. 

Courtesy: Becca Tapert

3. Nobody Is Judging You

This one took me a long time to realize. I feel like this is something everybody has struggled with, no matter what kind of city you grew up in, but it feels especially daunting for those of us who came from a small town where everybody knew everybody. Things spread by word of mouth so fast you would think that the entire school had a single group chat just to talk about you so it’s easy to get stuck in the mindset that everybody is constantly judging you. But I promise you, they’re not. Trust me on this one. People are too worried about if people are judging them to judge whatever you’re worried about. So, do and wear what you want and own it. 

4. Kiss Your Comfort Zone Goodbye

When you’re not stuck within a few square miles, things can seem daunting. It can be so easy to stay within the parameters of your comfort zone, which can sometimes be even smaller than your town was. But you’ve most likely moved to this big city for those new experiences so don’t let them go to waste. Try things that scare you. What’s that saying? “A ship is always safe at shore, but that’s not what it’s built for.” 

5. A Lot of Things Are Prettier from Far Away

I won’t lie, I never liked any of the towns I lived in. I didn’t have many friends, there was never anything to do and I felt like I was suffocating in a tiny box with a few holes poked into it. After moving away, however, I started to miss it and remembered all the good times. And this isn’t always just about where you lived; sometimes, it can mean strained relationships you left behind, people you lost contact with, etc. Things always look prettier from far away. You know what they say, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” But that doesn’t always mean that what you miss was good for you. Be mindful of this when you find yourself wanting to call up that toxic friend you cut ties with. 

Courtesy: Anthony Tran

6. Never Stop Learning About Yourself

That’s what moving out is for, isn’t it? You move out, live on your own and discover who you really are and what your place in this world is. Maybe you think you know everything there is to know about you; maybe, after growing up in a small town, you think that there isn’t anything left to learn, as if you are the same few square miles of your town. But the reality is, you will never stop learning about yourself. You are a complex, dynamic creature who is so full of wonderful possibilities. Just make sure to check in once and a while to make sure you’re making yourself happy. 

7. I Can Make My Life Mean Whatever I Want It To (So Can You)

Whenever I left home, I realized I was kind of living in a vacuum. Since everybody knew you, everybody had some kind of predetermined prejudice against who you are and what your life was supposed to be. When you move to a big city, however, all of that goes away. You are a transplant in this new place, and you have the rare luxury of getting to start over in a new place where, maybe, nobody knows you. I now understand that I am in control of what kind of life I want to live and I’m in control of more aspects of my life than I realized. And so are you. 

8. Take Every Opportunity

This isn’t to say, “Join those seven clubs and take several jobs and grab every single opportunity that comes your way no matter what.” If you did that, then you’d burn yourself out pretty quickly. But if you see an opportunity that you want, just go for it. Apply for that new job even if you feel like you’re not qualified. Audition for an Acappella group even if you haven’t sung in years. Ask that person out to dinner even if you think they are way out of your league. Because honestly, what do you have to lose? You’ve been stuck in this bubble for so long; allow yourself to stretch a little. 

Courtesy: Domain

9. There Are So Many Things I Don’t Know

After growing up in a small town, it can be so easy to forget just how vast the world is and that reality exists outside of your home. I am constantly learning new things about my city and the people that reside in it, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg of what the world has to offer. It’s impossible to grasp just how much about the world I don’t know about yet, but I am so excited to learn as much as I possibly can. 

10. That World is Full of Possibilities – and That’s Pretty D*mn Amazing

Sometimes, whenever college and work are overwhelming and I have been stuck in the same place for weeks on end, just waiting for the weekend, I just remind myself that literally, anything can happen. I’m not saying that to be cliché, it’s just true. The world is full of an infinite amount of possibilities and there are so many things that I have yet to learn about our world. Thinking about all the things I haven’t yet discovered helps me recapture that sense of wonder from when I was a kid. Maybe you’ll get that dream job. Maybe you’ll meet the love of your life tomorrow. There are so many possibilities. Just in the few years since I left home, I have seen things that I once thought to be unfathomable, and it just gets me thinking: What else could happen?

Moving to a big(ger) city has definitely taught me that I am in charge of my own life. Living in a small town, I felt that everything was already laid out in front of me and I was going to be stuck in this perpetual loop. But the moment I decided to move to a city and go off to university, I took control. I have the reins on my life, and I am so excited to see where it leads me. Moving away from that small-town bubble was terrifying, but I wouldn’t trade my new experiences for anything. 

Want to see more HCFSU? Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on InstagramTwitter and Pinterest!