After undergrad, I got my wish: I joined Teach for America and got placed as a high school biology teacher in Chicago. While I truly enjoyed my time in the Windy Apple, it made me realize I had taken some things about smaller cities for granted: the ease of being part of the community; the ability to really know the city; and most importantly, the ability get out of the city. In Chicago I realized that maybe I wasn't destined to be a Sophisticated, Big City Person. Maybe I was a bit more of a hayseed* than I had thought.
Jon Wilcox, a friend of Damn Arbor, sent us a tip that Ann Arbor was featured on the front page of The Atlantic Cities today. Micheline Maynard's article, In Praise of Smaller Cities, sums up many of my feelings about small city life quite well.
When I was growing up in Michigan, I couldn’t wait to get out. There was no view as thrilling as the map of a big city laid out from an airplane window at nightfall. Each time my parents took us on a trip, I plotted my escape. I poured over our weekly issue of The New Yorker, memorizing the places advertised in the back of the magazine.Gentle Readers, what do you think about small city life? Do you yearn for something bigger? Are smaller cities right for you? Do you yearn for something smaller? Please share your thoughts.
On Sunday afternoons, my brother and I sat in my godmother’s car, playing the game we called “Driving to Chicago.” (Thankfully, her keys were safely put away.)
Eventually, I got my wish. I've lived in Chicago, New York, Washington, and Tokyo. And now, I’m back in Ann Arbor, the town where I was born. Only I’m not standing on our Main Street and despairing.
Turns out my years living in big cities have given me an unexpected education in getting the most out of small city life. They’ve helped me discover what’s most important to me: a lively, diverse community, with access to good food, the arts, the world around us, and a comfortable place to live that’s also affordable on a freelancer’s budget.
*Maybe we could call bumpkins from Michigan "appleseeds" as opposed to "hayseeds?"