Do you know why a marathon runner who suffers black toenails, hours of preparation and the pain of recovery from 26.2 miles signs up for another marathon? Because the wonderful memory of crossing the finish line, the feeling of endorphins coursing through your veins, the thrill of knowing the extent of the accomplishment skews your perception of the painful reality of the run. It’s the same reason women endure the pain of childbirth multiple times…the reward is greater than the punishment.
For 15 years my memories of all of the good that comes from living in a small town have skewed my reality of what small town life is truly comprised. I have spent the better part of my adult life remembering why I wanted to come back and squashing the painful reasons why I originally left.
After one short month of living back in my small town, I can tell you that reality has overshadowed those good memories and I have remembered exactly why I left. A year from now when I’m back in New Hampshire, I, like the marathon runner, may squash the reality, so this post will serve as my reminder as to why I will once again leave this small town and this time I will not look back.
I am surrounded by family and friends…that I never get to see because jobs other than minimum wage do not exist so I am working 50-70 hours per week to make ends meet.
I am surrounded by all of the familiar sites and sounds that put me at ease and make me feel at home, yet I miss the sites and sounds of the northeast and find myself longing for those things to which I had become accustomed.
The good things are here….the good things that make me smile and laugh. The things I have missed and longed to be a part of are all surrounding me and for that I am truly grateful that I came home.
…but there’s also the bad…
Small towns are gossip driven. Small towns never allow people to change from who they were in high school. Small towns are political, cliquey and overall nasty places to live at times. Sometimes all of the good in small town life can be greatly overshadowed by the bad.
Coming back here with an outsider’s perspective allows me to look at the gossip and cliques differently. I have learned that the thing which I despise most about a small town is not the gossip (he-said-she-said-did-you-hear) rather I cannot stand the fact that everyone believes they need to hide from the gossip and change the way they act because of the gossip. People will actually forgo doing something they would like to do because “people might talk”.
- Teachers cannot buy beer at the local grocery store because one of the students cashiers on Saturdays….people might talk.
- A Mom of three can’t go grab a beer at the local pub at 3p.m. on a Wednesday with a friend….people might talk.
- A single female who is a avid sports fan and might enjoy sitting in the stands at the Friday night football game with knowledgeable married men because she is more interested in the game than local gossip cannot do so…people might talk.
- A Mom who sees a popular kid bullying her daughter cannot report the incident because the bully is a good kid with a good last name and we don’t get good kids in trouble in this town…people might talk.
- A woman from a popular family can’t have a conversation with the kid who just got out of jail for drugs…people might talk.
The list goes on and on…
Since coming back here I have heard that I am a terrible person because I left my kids in New Hampshire but can go out and partying like nothing happened, so I must be a craptastic Mom. I have heard that I am a whore because I talk to men married or otherwise about football, the weather or crops. I have heard that I do not act the way a 40 year old mother should act because I spend too much time out drinking with people that I shouldn’t be associating with since they are not “the right kind of people”. If I were to piece it all together and listen to the gossip, I would hide in my house, only speak to the right people in public and pay someone to buy my beer in another town, so as not to give people more reasons to talk about me.
Here’s what I have learned about myself:
I do not know that there is a right or wrong way to be a divorced, 40 year old mother of three, but the funny things is that I like the way I live my life and most of the time I truly like me! (Because we’re all human and sometimes the gossip does sting!)
2013 has been a year of discovery about myself. What I found was that when I stopped buying into what everyone else says about me, I learned to like myself, in fact I’d even go so far as to say that I love me! Do I always make great choices – nope. However, I live with the choices I make. I take responsibility for how my choices affect me and how they affect my kids. I don’t sweat it and I certainly don’t make choices based on what anyone in this small town or anywhere else might say about me. I am who I am and I refuse to let my fear of being “talked about” change anything about me.
I sit and wonder at times whether the gossip in small towns would change if people just stopped giving a shit what everyone else thinks they should be doing and simply did whatever makes them happy. Maybe the answer isn’t changing those doing the gossiping (because folks EVERYBODY gossips at some point), maybe the answer is changing how we let the gossip affect us. Where do we get our self-worth? From them or from something deep inside us?
If people just made choices that worked for them and their lives, stood by those choices and refused to defend themselves when the negative talk started, instead just saying “to hell with the talk”, then maybe…just maybe people would stop talking.
NAH! But it’s nice to dream!
“Every last one, route one, rural heart’s got a story to tell. Every Grandma, in-law, ex girlfriend maybe knows it just a little too well. Whether you’re late for work or stuck in jail, hey word’s gonna get around. Everybody dies famous in a small town!”