I am a city girl. There’s no doubt about it. But I started life in a small town. And almost from birth, I knew I was in the wrong place, as evidenced by my role as the City Mouse in The Country Mouse & The City Mouse in kindergarten.
I grew up in the same town as my mom; even went to the same high school. She was happy there with her parents and friends close by. She did leave when she went to college but came back. I always knew I wanted out. I wanted to live in a city.
My mom took us to cities (well at least bigger cities than our small town) a lot growing up, regular shopping trips to Winston and Greensboro and occasionally Charlotte. I would often ask why we couldn’t move to a city. The city had stores and things to do! She thought it was funny, but I was serious. She’d remind me that my friends and grandparents were all here. But I knew I’d get the chance to leave when I went away to college.
Maybe I would have gone further and left the state had circumstances been different. I wanted to spread my wings but being close to my sick mom was more important. So I went to the school my mom wanted me to go to that was less than an hour away.
However, it was technically a city. Not huge but bigger than my small town. I’m glad I made that choice because for the last three months of my mom’s life that’s where she was hospitalized. I was able to visit her almost every day. I would not have had this time with her if I would have made a different choice. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices about what we do and where we live.
After that city came a bigger city then an even bigger city. I’ve now lived in Charlotte 12 years. And Charlotte is the real deal big city (17th largest in the US). It has grown amazingly in the last 12 years. I even recall from visiting here as a kid when no one went downtown (think pre-Panthers) and the major strip was Independence. But now downtown is uptown, and it’s where everyone wants to be.
I’ve lived in many different areas in these 12 years including a stint in the suburbs. And I hated everything about it. I’m not suburban. There’s not one shred of me that could cut it in a cul-de-sac (even if it was as exciting as Knots Landing – if you don’t know what Knots Landing is then ask Google – you’ll want to know!). But after marriage, it seemed like the path to take. White picket fence and all that ridiculousness.
So after my divorce I needed a fresh start so I moved downtown. I had never really lived in a downtown before. Even though I didn’t feel the tingle and energy like in NYC, it was still city life. And I thought this is for me. I could walk anywhere I needed to go. There was always something going on, and people everywhere. I loved the anonymity of it. Like I could disappear in the crowd. Maybe that’s why I’ve always craved the city. Because in a small town everybody knows your story. You can’t disappear. A trip to the grocery store could end up traumatic.
And I speak from experience. I do still visit that small town where I’m from because people I love are still there. But if they weren’t I don’t think I’d ever go back. Sometimes a place can have a hold on you, make you feel different. I don’t hate it like I did growing up. It’s just a place, a place where both good and bad things happened. It’s worth it for the amazing company.
We live just outside of downtown now, and I go to work there every day. Charlotte is still booming. And I can appreciate that it’s a good market. We stay here because this is where we have some roots, but it isn’t a place I love. My hope is that in the not too distant future, we can live in a city we love, preferably on the west coast.
In the end, I suppose where you live doesn’t matter as much as with whom. However, that doesn’t mean I’d go back to a small town or suburbia. Of course, I’m pretty sure we’d be ditch the city for a cottage on the beach in Jamaica. And anything is possible, even for a girl from a small town.