What’s scarier than leaving the comfort, regularity, and routine of a small town for the big city? How about leaving a big city for a small town?
Growing up, all I could ever talk about how much I hated my hometown. I would have given an arm and a leg to leave and go just about anywhere else. I finally got the opportunity to leave and decided I was going to venture into the unknown of the Midwest.
The Midwest does have its urban areas, it’s beautiful, and there is no one friendlier than a Midwesterner. The only problem, it is not place for an East Coaster. In the Midwest, I can be standing 20 or 30 feet away from a door and someone will wait for me so I don’t have to hold it myself. People here are so friendly, and not only are they friendly, but they are sincere. When someone compliments you, they truly mean it. When someone starts small talk, it’s is because they genuinely care. At restaurants, everyone takes their time, as if there is nowhere else they ever need to be.
I can honestly tell you that not a single one of these things is normal in back in DC. You will never hold a door for more than a matter of seconds, small talk is often forced and rarely sincere. And everyone is constantly in a rush.
Reading back, it sounds like I’m crazy. East Coasters seem like absolutely horrible people, and everyone in the Midwest is perfect. The one great thing about DC is that everyone is open-minded and understanding. I don’t mean open-minded as in everyone is welcoming of every single idea ever because that is highly impossible and improbable. I mean it in the sense that everyone is aware of all kinds of different ideas, everyone knows at least one other person who is very different than them and that is okay.
In the Midwest, I am an alien. People know immediately that I am different. I talk faster, I listen to weird music I find on the streets of New York City, I don’t believe in the same traditional ideals that most of the other people here do, and I even look different. I have different, less conservative religious beliefs, which are okay back home but seem almost taboo here. Sometimes people come up to talk to me simply because I am different, but often in a matter that is attempting to convince me to be more like them. I am not. I never will be. But I am here nonetheless, and am fascinated by every day’s new experiences.
Please do not take any of this the wrong way. The Midwest is a fantastic place, and I would never regret any of these new experiences, but it is not the place for me. In DC, people seem to dream a little bigger, and having a greater worldview simply because we are surrounded by an astounding amour of diversity and constant change. Nothing shocked me more that listening to people say how they never want to leave this small town because they love the monotony of a comfortable, known routine of daily life.
Coming from somewhere where being different is welcomed, and where anyone can be anything they want, the expectations of small town Indiana can be restrictive and scary. Maybe the Midwest isn’t for everyone, but I encourage people to step out of their comfort zone like this and explore. There is always going to be somewhere out there that knows something you don’t, someone who live a little differently, or maybe a lot differently. And you know what? It’s going to be terrifying, but I promise you it’s worth it.