All my life I have been a small town girl. Not in the honky-tonk, redneck, deep country way, but in the quiet preference for things familiar and easy. I like open roads and backyards, mountain trails and water-front campsites, bopping around in my ’94 Camry and doing laundry in my house. It was all I ever knew growing up and in college, and I loved it.
Then I moved to New York City. The city of all cities, where the highs are the greatest you’ll ever experience and the lows will drag you down faster than anything. Life became hard in the biggest and smallest ways, and I fought so hard to maintain my beloved suburban ways and state of mind. I was and am so proud of where I’m from―a tiny town sandwiched between two tourist destinations, nondescript but lovable―for what it has instilled in me and for making my values what they are. I vehemently protested being a “city girl,” I guess because a lot of the time it’s crazy and difficult and loud and unrelenting, and because maybe I thought the label would strip me of my roots.
But it wasn’t until Valentine’s Day last week as I took an Uber ride home from a night out in San Francisco that I realized maybe I am a city girl after all. Maybe I am part country girl, and part city girl. Maybe I can be both. Because as much as I love having a car and privacy and the stillness and fresh air, I have also come to love the mood of the city. I like that there is always another neighborhood, another street to experience for the first time. I like that I can go to a tiny hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant and eat amazing food and never go back again because there are so many others just like it. I like that I can walk to the same coffee shop every weekend and order the same bagel sandwich and vanilla latte with skim milk, because sometimes a girl needs routine. I like that the city, this city, allows me excitement when I need it and quiet (or as quiet as it can be when you live below musicians) when I don’t.
I like that I can see the stars here, so similar to the same sky I stare into at home. I like the endless ambition and the dreams, realized or crushed. I like the choice of always having something to do, even if more than half the time I stay home to watch Tim Riggins on Netflix. I like the lengthy challenge of finding my favorites in a sea of options. I like the camaraderie that comes with living in a city where so many others have lived before you, and where so many will live after you. I like the anonymity rather than the seeming magnification that comes with a small town. And even the less glamorous things―the subway delays, the sky-high rent, the dirty roommates, the loud neighbors―have blended a little more into this life that has finally become familiar and tolerable.
Most of all, I like that I am lucky enough to know the beauty of both places, and have made peace with an environment where I originally felt forced to live, and after almost two years, have come to call home.