Growing up in Alpharetta, Georgia just 30 minutes or so away from Atlanta, I was surrounded by a lot of contempt for the suburbs. “There’s nothing to do around here!” my friends and I would whine. Everyone seemed intent upon “escaping” our so-called suburban hell for the glamor of the big city. The city is where sexy twenty-somethings hold impressive jobs, sip martinis in fancy bars and solve high-profile murder cases. Cities are for the powerful, the well informed and the culturally literate. Small towns are for repressed housewives and overweight dads who peaked in high school... Right?
So I guess it’s not surprising that after high school, many of my classmates relocated to Atlanta, New York, Boston, D.C. and many smaller cities in between. However, I chose not to go to school in a big city. I chose Milledgeville, Georgia - a town even smaller than the one I grew up in. The extent of “downtown” was about three streets, there were no skyscrapers and eating at the local Chili’s was considered a “fancy” night out. I loved it.
Here are the three things going to college in a small town taught me:
1) Slowing Down: It’s no secret that small towns operate at a different pace than big cities do. Bus drivers will wait for you if they see you running for the bus and people say hi to you on the streets and when you walk across campus. Living in a small town taught me to stop and let the pedestrian cross the street, to not tap my foot in the long line at Starbucks, and to simply slow down and take a breath. The ability to do so is important. Otherwise, I might’ve rushed right through one of the most carefree, inspiring and formative times of my life.
2) The Importance of a Good Reputation: In a small town your reputation is the most important thing you could ever own. Going to college in Milledgeville everyone seemingly knew everyone else’s business. At the time this seemed like one of the worst things about living there, in hindsight however, it was actually a blessing in disguise. You learn the value of keeping your nose clean, and thinking twice before doing something “everyone” will eventually find out about (and trust me, they will.) I’ve found the continuation of a good reputation in a big city is just as important as it is in a small town. You never know whom you’ll meet, what they’ll know about you, and how that connection could play out in the future.
3) Appreciating the Small Things: Living in a small town taught me how to become very excited about simple happiness. A new business coming to town was a tremendously exciting occasion – Cookout I’m looking at you. Being featured in the local newspaper made you an instant celebrity. A beautiful day inspired just about everyone you knew to be outside on his or her front yard. Small towns gave me an appreciation for the moments that were simple and easy.
There’s something charming about living where the living is easy.
Photography by Garrett Lobaugh