I have convinced my children that I grew up in an unusually kind place with an ideal school system. They believe I came of age in a charmed atmosphere of friendship and supportive learning. In my opinion, I did. My hometown, Alma, is a small community of 9000 people in central Michigan. We had one high school with about 1000 students total. Rural space and farms surround the town itself. My parents’ homes were in the country part next to creeks and dirt roads but I spent half of my time in town with my friends, loitering inside the record shop (Sound Depot) and outside the 7/11. Perhaps because the community was small and there wasn’t a huge socioeconomic gap between the rich and the poor, there wasn’t an atmosphere of competition or one-upmanship. If anything, I remember people reaching out to each other. My dad knew everybody because of our local business. The merchants looked out for each other and had a vested interest in keeping the downtown area thriving.
Teachers knew us
Our teachers cared about us and we knew it. There were fewer students to know and teach. The teachers knew of each student’s family. They could truly know us. It was easier to make a connection. I am still connected on Facebook with several teachers, including my kindergarten teacher. I STILL feel like they care because they, along with former classmates, cheer me on as I cheer them on. It is a constant comfort given I’ve lived in several states and occasionally feel like I’m out on my own, untethered, without a real home. There is an Facebook page where members contribute memories and photos from Alma of yore. One post asked members to tell about their favorite teacher from Alma Public Schools. It was fun and nostalgic to hear names I hadn’t heard in decades. Finally, a place for teachers to get their proper reverence. I gave props to my English and Spanish teachers (even back then enamored with words and language) but… one person had to go rogue and disparage a well-known teacher. This teacher’s daughter happened to be a contributor to the site.The response from the rest of the group was swift and clear. This was not a place to go negative. This was a safe place to wax positively about teachers who made a difference. Warm and fuzzies abound. My kids could not believe no one else took the opportunity to bash the bad teachers.
Out for ourselves
My kids have a different experience. The teachers care at my kids’ schools but there are 4000 students in the district high school and the competition and drive for achievement is fierce. The community and support I felt have been replaced with insecurity and pressure. It’s necessary to be assertive, aggressive even. This goes for students and parents. It’s a game of working the system rather than working together. What I notice as different between my hometown and where I live now is we did not have to fight for everything. We didn’t have to ultra excel. We didn’t have to push ourselves every second of the day. There was time to loiter. Time to rest in solitude.Time to laugh. Time to talk.Time to help each other. My childhood was more idealistic and nurturing than competitive and striving.
Perhaps introverts are more suited for rural areas or small towns?
Susan Cain wrote in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking, about the shift from rural america to urban living during the industrial revolution. During this period the public’s focus moved from reflective time and personal character (what you would do if no one was looking) to mass productivity and competition (what do you have to offer in order to get the job, mate, living space). We moved from an introspective perspective to a personality comparison. The one with the most charm and outgoing energy wins. In other words, the more introverted nature lost out to the more gregarious extroverted nature. I am quite sure I have romanticized my hometown but isn’t that a good thing? I could have bitter, unhappy memories of my community, but I don’t. As an idealistic and sensitive introvert I thrived in a small community. Perhaps it was the lack of competition and crowds. Perhaps it was the overall positive helpful kindness I found there. Whatever the case, I miss the simplicity. I miss the space to live. The space to care. The space to be cared for by the village.
Do you think small towns or large cities are more conducive to an introvert’s way of living? What aspects of each benefit an introvert?
If you enjoyed this post you may also love: