I’ve been thinking a lot lately about life in a small town versus the big city. I live in New York City most of the time now, having done so for the past three years of law school, and I will continue to for the foreseeable future. But more and more I feel that I’m a country mouse at heart.
I grew up in a Connecticut town that is not technically “small” but has a certain small town feel. There’s a lot of school spirit surrounding teams, you tend to run into people you know wherever you go out to eat or shop, and Main Street is straight off a classic Americana postcard.
Of course, most young people are eager to go off to college and then move to “the city” i.e.: New York. I thought there was no better place to live than Manhattan even before I got there as a young adult. All of the cultural institutions I love like the New York City Ballet and Metropolitan Museum of Art, great restaurants, Central Park to run in, and most of all, millions of people in motion every day certain to make for an invigorating life.
As I’ve learned over the past three years, all of this is true. The artistic places I loved as a child are still close to my heart, there are so many dining options so I can eat out even with my dietary restrictions, and it’s fantastic to have such a large running community. Joining organizations like the Junior League, which I expected, and November Project, which happened by way of a Junior League friend but was totally different and unexpected and is truly awesome, has expanded my social horizons. I never know who I might run into walking down the street, either. I’ve literally bumped right into classmates from elementary school or people I took ballet with or went to camp with who I haven’t seen in more than a decade.
But as much energy as the city has, it isn’t what makes me feel most alive. I love Central Park, but I miss the opportunity to be in the real outdoors, being able to run for miles and hear only birds chirping and bees buzzing (okay, and maybe some lawns being mowed). I feel most energized when I’m waking up to a sunrise and a big gulp of fresh air, and most at peace when I can see the stars at night.
As a child, I was a bookworm and ballerina, but I always had plenty of time outside that I took for granted. I didn’t understand that engaging with nature was something I would miss when it was gone. Being back in my Connecticut town this summer studying, and now relaxing in between post-exam travels, I’ve spent the most extended period of time outside the city that I have since law school began. Though I miss seeing my friends on a regular basis, I really don’t miss the hustle and bustle and skyscrapers and dust much at all.
Speaking of those friends – it’s funny how you can feel lonely in a big city, and not very lonely at all when you’re actually by yourself in the woods. I think I glamorized the city as a place where all your friends congregate at once, and that is the case for some people to a greater extent than others. But as I’ve mentioned before, my closest dozen or so friends are scattered far and wide. I’ve been lucky to develop a broad social network, and am becoming closer with friends I’ve met through the NYJL and NP. But nobody stays put forever, and in fact, I can feel more isolated knowing that some of the people dearest to me have moved on and aren’t coming back when I consider that they were part of the reason I was so determined to make the city my “real home”. There is also, of course, the specter of “meeting the right person” that tends to be emphasized in the city-country debate. Yet I honestly believe more and more each day that those meetings really come down to chance!
In the end, I just feel better about myself and more at peace with the world when I am somewhere I can be outdoors and not feel confined. I’m not claustrophobic, exactly – though I’ve always been fearless at great heights and extremely uncomfortable in dark, underground, or confined spaces. But I am aware enough to recognize that things I love about the summer and other seasons may also make me more suited to a life other than that of a city mouse. It is the right place for right now. My job, many friends, and artistic and athletic things I love are contained on the island of Manhattan. But down the road, I think I’m enough of an outdoorsy girl at heart to want to make somewhere else home. No idea where that might be. Maybe right here, elsewhere in New England, straight across the country or some other spot on the globe. Only time will tell.
Are you a city mouse or a country mouse, or somewhere in between?
Do you see certain places as better for different stages of life?
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