Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Small Town Girl

Even though I've lived in Chicago for a long time now, I think I'll always be a small town girl at heart. It's been fourteen years since I graduated from high school, which means it'll be only six more years until my twenty-year class reunion. (That makes me feel old. But then again, watching a One Direction music video makes me feel old too.)

I don't really keep in touch with anyone from high school anymore. I suppose I could reconnect with old classmates and friends if I joined Facebook, but seeing as how I have an obsessive personality, Facebook would probably prevent me from ever leaving my apartment again. If and when there is a reunion, I'm not sure I'll go. The thing about growing up in a small town is that everyone knows everything about each other, and I'd really rather not spend an evening listening to people reminisce about the top ten times I embarrassed myself.

Also, I feel ashamed that it's taken me so long to complete my PhD, and I'm still not there yet. I always thought that I'd have my act together by the time I was in my thirties, but I'm still figuring everything out.

There are some things I miss about living in a small town and being a teenager, though.

I miss going to the movies with my friends on Saturday nights.

I don't miss the parties that only the football players and cheerleaders were invited to, which meant that less than half a dozen people in the class (including me) didn't get to go. (I was a cheerleader in junior high but not in high school, partly because I once accidentally caused a pyramid of cheerleaders to collapse.)

I miss the peace and quiet, especially now that a new neighbor has moved into my building and is an aspiring musician. I say "aspiring musician" because he apparently only knows three chords on the piano, which he keeps playing over and over again for hours every night while he sings (off-key) at the top of his lungs. I'm half-tempted to steal his keyboard, take a picture of it, and then slip a note under his door that says, "If you want to see your keyboard again, buy a pair of headphones. Otherwise, your keyboard will be sleeping with the fishes."

I don't miss the gossip that people would spread about each other, because it was nearly impossible to keep secrets in a small town.

I miss the familiarity, where I could take a walk around the neighborhood, go to the store, or visit the public library and inevitably run into several people that I knew.

I don't miss the cliques that formed in the first grade and more or less stayed intact through senior year of high school.

I miss eating pizza and hamburgers with my friends after we went to the movies.

I don't miss the Salisbury steak and corn dogs we ate for lunch in the high school cafeteria.

I miss being able to spend money on fun things like CDs and concert tickets instead of sensible things like rent and groceries.

I don't miss working in a supermarket, where I routinely had to tell customers to put their shirts back on if they wanted to continue shopping in the store. 

I miss the sense of optimism and hope I had for the future, back when I believed anything was possible.

I don't miss the people who made me feel bad because I didn't have a boyfriend, because I read and studied most of the time, and because I kept getting hit by the ball every time I tried to play sports. One thing that I like about being an "adult" is that I can be "different" and not have to worry about the most popular kids in school judging me. 

If I could talk to my teenaged self, I'd tell her that it's not the end of the world if you don't have a boyfriend, even if it seems like all your other friends have boyfriends and like to spend hours telling you about them. I'd tell her that it's okay if you don't go to prom, because there are so many other things in your life that you'll have to look forward to. I'd tell her that high school doesn't last forever, and eventually you will be free of it.

What about you? What do you miss/not miss about high school and your hometown? If you already had a reunion, did you go? If you haven't had one yet, will you go if there is one?


  1. Wow, I think you wrote most of my list for me. I always worked in a supermarket in high school. Fun times.

    I don't miss feeling awkward. I miss weighing under 100 pounds. I wish I appreciated it.

  2. As for reunions, yes, I went. I wouldn't have gone if my husband didn't plan to meet old friends. In the end, I'm glad I did.

    1. Hi Theresa,
      I think the last time I weighed under 100 pounds I was in the fifth grade. I miss the days when I could run around for fun, without thinking about how many calories I was burning by running.
      I didn't go to the last reunion for my high school, which is partly why I'm not sure if I want to go to the next one. If I could arrive in a helicopter like the class nerd did at the end of Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, then I would go.

  3. The good ol days of innocence, thats what I miss. Everything feeling new and fresh. A chance to discover what you are and are not made of. Because I did not graduate from high school as a kid, I have not gone to any reunions, but I could see where they would be fun. Until my mom drug me to hers, can you say boring. I mean not just because I didn't know anyone but because everyone remembers what used to be and not what is. If it was not good times then you are left trying to pull yurself together and start living reality again.

    As for my small town I loved it. I never got lost, because the town ( as I saw it as a kid) went in a circle. I often go back thanks to google maps.


    1. Hi Debi,
      I haven't been back to my hometown in years, because my parents don't live there anymore. But several of my high school classmates still live there. I remember what it was like to see things through the eyes of a teenager; it was very different to how I see them now as an adult.

  4. I grew up in a small town too, but have lived in many big cities. The interesting thing is I think we create our "small town" community wherever we go.

    1. Hi Johanna,
      I think you're right. I've often heard people say that Chicago is like several small towns in one big city, because each neighborhood is like a little town.

  5. I was born in a city, moved to the small town next door, moved back to the city (well, large town) for 18 months, then back to the small town. I'm not really sure where I'm going with this comment... I am not well travelled. But at least I don't miss anything :-)

    1. Hi Annalisa,
      I think it's good that you had the experience of living in both a small town and a big city. When I lived in my hometown, I had no idea what life would be like in a big city like Chicago; I don't think I even really pictured myself living in a big city. But I'm glad that I got to come here and find out what it was like.

  6. I don't miss all that awkwardness and feeling different, that's for sure. I'm glad I was able to choose to attend a small all-girls school - think I would have been even more lost and confused at a large public school.
    Sometimes I wish I'd had a small town experience too when I was young! But I've always been in the same city.

    1. Hi Deniz,
      I had the chance to go to a larger public high school, but I stayed at the small Catholic one because the big school seemed too intimidating to me at the time. I miss the good experiences I had in my hometown, but I like living in the city better.