For the first (nearly) 18 years of my life I lived in a rural area of Ohio. I didn’t like it. In the (nearly) 6 years since I left for college, however, I’ve lived in urban areas. And over the course of those 6 years, I’ve become progressively more sure that I want to return to my rural roots. I like open spaces. I like knowing my bank teller. I like feeling as though my voice holds weight in my community. And I really, really like the cultural heritage that I never realized I even had until well after I left home.
Lately I’ve been feeling particularly wistful for the middle of nowhere. Not the town I grew up in, but maybe somewhere like it out here in Washington. In these moments of longing it becomes difficult to stay content in this lovely small city that I call home now. Its stop-and-go traffic and shoulder-to-shoulder crowds feel claustrophobic in the same way that the endless fields of soybeans and corn felt stifling to my teenaged self. I become impatient to relocate, to subject myself once more to my former straightjacket.
But while I’m stuck waiting at the traffic lights of both my city streets and my life, I wonder if much like my teenaged self I’m getting something wrong here. I think that when we feel as though we can’t leave, our comfortable home turns into a desolate cage, even if all of the same cozy wool blankets, mismatched coffee mugs, and collections of trinkets still surround us. Though I’m anxious to get back to my rural roots, I also feel so grateful for the richness that urban living has brought to my life. I can now confidently order from Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, and Indian menus. I’m passably skilled at using chopsticks. I can navigate a public transportation system with ease. I appreciate things about rurality that I took for granted before: a special relationship with natural resources, no rush hours, and sense of community, to name a few.
We only get one lifetime full of experiences. It’s best to appreciate the ones we have for their benefits than to deride them for their shortcomings. Don’t you think?