Urban vs. Rural: When Looking Back Pushes Us Forward
I grew up on a dairy farm located 15 miles from the nearest town. That town had a population of 1,500 people. Most of my college classmates had more than 1,500 people in their high school while my graduating class was close to 50. You could definitely say I grew up in a rural community.
In my mind, it was a unique and ideal upbringing. My brother and I rode horses all summer long. We helped raise lambs and calves that had lost their mothers or were abandoned. Every time one of the barn cats had kittens, I pulled them around in my wagon pretending they were my babies.
There were drawbacks of course. It was a long drive to pretty much anywhere. There weren’t any neighbor kids around. Although, when I got old enough, I would ride my bike or horse two miles to meet a friend.
A Change Made the Difference
Even though I loved how I grew up, when I was choosing a college I knew I wanted something different. I wanted to know that I could make it somewhere else, a place where everyone hadn’t known me since I was born. I wanted to be sure my choices were my own and not because I felt pressured to make them. So, I left my rural roots and entered the big city.
I knew my parents were worried I would wander or lose my faith. Even my religious seminary teacher expressed concern that I wouldn’t stay faithful to my beliefs. They had good reason to worry. I was confident I would be just fine – at least I thought I was confident.
A heavy dose of reality set in as I waved to the back of my parent’s pickup truck. I pretended I was self-assured and ready for them to leave, but really, I wanted to run after them, stop the truck, and tell them I changed my mind.
But I didn’t. Best. Decision. Ever.
Why? Because I got the experiences I needed to know what I wanted later in life. I enjoyed being able to drive 10 minutes to the movie theater, McDonald’s, or the mall. Except, of course when traffic made it take twice as long. I went to an orchestra concert for the first time and could drive 15 minutes to a rocky, cold, yet beautiful beach. As much as I enjoyed those activities, I learned I wanted something quieter, more peaceful.
The city is always noisy.
Deciding Where to Raise a Family
In my college days, I didn’t realize how growing up in a small community had impacted my life. In my mind, schools were schools and towns were towns. They were all about the same. It took two days of college for me to figure out that wasn’t true.
I was surrounded by students from large, exclusive high schools and professors with views and opinions that were vastly different from my own. Defending my beliefs through words and actions became a common occurrence, which was good for me. I learned to respect others even if I disagreed with them.
Where you live does make a difference, sometimes a significant difference. Everything from schools, activities available, and proximity to events can influence your perspective, values, thoughts, and experiences.
I learned that, at heart, I didn’t want a farm. Yet, I did want a rural life. I wanted our children to have experiences that were closer to my own. We don’t live now as rural as I grew up but when I look out my window, I see only trees. I hear no traffic and I can see the stars at night. Don’t get me wrong, we’re still just over an hour away from a major city but you wouldn’t know it.
Coming Back Home
When I left for college, I had no idea where I ultimately wanted to live. I didn’t even know what my major was going to be. I did know I wanted something different, but the more I had of ‘different’ the more I wanted what I’d left behind.
I look at my children and realize they aren’t having the same childhood I did. We don’t have horses, cows, sheep, or even a cat (the humane society denied us, which is a post for another day). We camp, cut firewood, haul rocks, and build forts in the woods. We roast marshmallows over a fire pit built from an old truck wheel. We sit outside and listen to the sound of quiet.
It’s not exactly the same as the farm where I grew up but it feels familiar. It feels like home. I’m sure that at least one, if not all, of my children will, at one time or another, want something different than what we have. I hope I am prepared when that day comes. I hope I have faith in their decisions as my parents had in mine. I hope they learn what ‘home’ feels like, so when they find it they will recognize it as the place they feel content and at peace.