Why I Prefer My Big-City Adult Life To My Small-Town Childhood

by Elizabeth Brennan

I was born in a small town, but (sorry John Mellencamp) I'm probably not going to die in a small town.

Unlike Mellencamp's song, “Small Town," I know there is no going back to my 2-square-mile radius in New Jersey.

I've been in New York City for two years and yet, I feel like I am still learning about its hidden gems.

New York is not boring, but small towns are.

Growing up in a town where I could walk from one side to the other in less than 40 minutes limited my ability to explore not only myself, but also, the world around me.

I was confined for 18 years to the small-town life, which is stereotypical in every way possible.

From the time I was in kindergarten until the day I graduated high school at 17-years-old, the same exact kids surrounded me.

Whenever a new student transferred into our public school, he or she was immediately the most popular kid.

A new classmate meant the possibility of a new friend, new ideas, new knowledge about the outside world beyond our bubble and a potential new boyfriend or girlfriend.

When you go to school with the same people year after year, the dating pool is limited.

By the time high school graduation rolled around, it was well known throughout graduates that you hooked up with your brother's best friend, his cousin, your best friend's ex-boyfriend and, don't forget, your boyfriend's soccer captain.

Incest is the only way to describe the hook-up culture of a small town and most of the time, there's no shaming; everyone knows the limitations of going to school with 150 students per grade for 13 years straight.

It doesn't matter how much you travel because if you haven't lived outside of your small town for more than six months, you don't know what you're missing out on.

When college came around at age 18, I felt as if a million doors opened to me.

I was no longer worried about my parents finding out I didn't come home until 4 am or whether my classmates knew I had just been through a terrible breakup.

For the first time in my life, I had privacy; I had a fresh start.

Upon graduation, moving to New York City was the next step. New York City is everything and anything a small town is not. New York allows you to walk among millions of strangers each and every day.

The person on the subway doesn't know about your parents' income, the man who held the door for you doesn't know you got denied from your top choice college and the woman who sits next to you at Cyc Fitness doesn't know you're dating someone 10 years older than you.

Unlike a small town, New York allows you to live your life as you wish without the hesitation of doing so because of small-town gossip.

I realized what I wanted during the first 18 years of my life was privacy.

I wanted to be able to walk into a bagel shop completely hungover without running into my high school social studies teacher.

I wanted to be able to go to Starbucks with my boyfriend without running into my ex's parents.

I wanted to be able to drink at a bar with my mother and talk about what is happening in my life without it being documented by the country club mothers sitting behind us.

Growing up in such a small town prevented me from expanding, from growing and questioning, “What else is there?”

Small town no more. New York, you truly are my playground.

Thank you for allowing me to hook up with that guy on Bowery without it being Instagrammed.

Thank you for allowing me to go to on a walk on the seaport and cry when I just broke up with my boyfriend, without the fear of being ambushed.

Thank you for giving me a million types of restaurants to pick from.

Thank you for teaching me there are so many different types of people in the world and that it's okay to want to explore beyond what I already know.

Most importantly, thank you for taking me out of the small-town life, out of my comfort zone and into the fast-paced lifestyle of glamour, knowledge and culture I never plan on leaving.

I was born in a small town, and I'm probably going to die in the big city.