Smalltown U.S.A.

A few years ago, I decided it was time for me to start putting down some roots.  I’d grown tired of packing and moving nearly every year or two, and wanted more of a sense of permanency in my life.  I moved to the small island of Alameda, knowing this was where those roots would be placed for the next few years.  However, I’m now starting to be recognized around town, and running into people that I know at the grocery store.  This part of putting down roots scares the crap out of me.

For part of my childhood, I lived in a small country town where I was related to nearly half the population; the cemetery is named after my ancestors, for crying out loud.  I couldn’t go to the store with my grandmother without running into a relative or close friend of the family.  For some people this might seem nice–a friendly face to greet you wherever you go–but for me, it was often the opposite.

Since my mom was the black sheep of her family, I was automatically considered just as “rebellious,” especially if I did or said something they didn’t approve of.  That whole “guilt by association” thing followed me everywhere in that town.  There were actually times when the smile that was plastered on people’s faces when my grandma would introduce me turned into . . . not a scowl, per se, but let’s just say the friendliness turned to wariness.  I soon began to long for the anonymity of living in a big city.

The thought of living in a town so large that people would never really know me was very appealing.  And for a while, I enjoyed living in the big cities of New York, and Chicago.  I’d gained friends in each place, and had people to hang with, so it wasn’t like I was completely alone.  But I also had the benefit of being able to dye my hair if I wanted to, and no one in either city would glance twice; at least, not the strangers I’d pass on the street.  That lack of obvious judgement was wonderful.

Craig, on the other hand, lived in two houses his entire childhood; both in the same small town.  He loves having roots put down, and having that sense of sameness.  He used to love walking to the neighborhood store and being recognized by the clerk.  Me?  I just recently had breakfast at a local diner and my server asked for my name, since I’d “been coming in a lot lately.”  So now I’m on a first name basis with a waitress at the diner down the street.  EEK!

Being recognized around town now means the fear of being unfairly judged is rearing its head again.  I’m sure it’s an irrational fear–as they usually are–but it’s there just the same.  Everyone I’ve run into is very nice and likes me already.  They don’t even know about my mom’s black sheep history, and the people that do know her around here, LOVE my mom, as well they should.  So I probably don’t have to worry about people finding an action of mine unacceptable, but I’m still new at this whole being-recognized-around-town thing.

Every positive change–every jump to a higher level of energy and awareness–involves a rite of passage. Each time to ascend to a higher rung on the ladder of personal evolution, we must go through a period of discomfort, of initiation. I have never found an exception.
Dan Millman

So here I am, apparently climbing another rung on my personal evolution ladder.  I need to wade through this period of discomfort with being recognized as calmly as I can, because there might be something amazing waiting for me at the end of the fear tunnel.  Maybe more people will enjoy my blogs.  Maybe more people will come see my photography when it’s on exhibit at the local galleries.  Maybe I’ll make a life-long friend or two.

I’m sure there will be judgement; it’s a part of life, and happens to all of us.  But maybe the good will outweigh the bad . . . if I just give it time to do so.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Maddy
    Aug 17, 2012 @ 09:02:49

    Well I’m guessing your in California and hence-that’s just how people are around here–far less judgmental, open, friendly, what more could we want.


  2. cminichino
    Aug 17, 2012 @ 09:07:09

    When the checkout person at the supermarket looks at my check and wants to pronounce my name correctly, I say “Jones.” She thinks I’m being cute, but I just want to be anonymous—not for fear of judgment, but because I want to get out of there to my real friends.
    I hate small towns. That person doesn’t really care about me; she’s just following her training procedure. In NYC, where I’ve also lived, they rush you out with efficiency and maybe a hilarious insult. I miss it!


    • Alyx Morgan
      Aug 17, 2012 @ 09:33:06

      I don’t miss the ready insult that NYers are famous for. That’s why I liked Chicago better; the same big-city anonymity, but with a Midwestern friendliness to the strangers. But I agree that sometimes you just want to grab your stuff & go, not engage in a chat about someone’s cat troubles, or whatnot. Or for me, just sit at a diner & read my book while having breakfast in peace.

      Ah well…such is this current stage in my life.

      Thanks for commenting today, Camille.


  3. kaye george
    Aug 17, 2012 @ 10:26:58

    I know exactly what you mean! Try being a minister’s wife in a town of 1423 (according to the sign). When hubby retires, we’ll be in either Knoxville or DC, near grandkids. I’ll be MUCH more comfortable there. (Although I’ve learned to do what I want and let them talk–that weird woman who doesn’t get dressed until noon and stays up all night).


    • Alyx Morgan
      Aug 17, 2012 @ 10:30:08

      Ooof! Yeah, you’ve got me beat, Kaye. The population in Eaton Rapids, MI was larger than 1,423, & it was spread out over the farming community. But good on you for doing your thing & letting them gab anyway! 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by.


  4. Dana Fredsti
    Aug 17, 2012 @ 11:28:15

    Love the quote from Millman (and am stealing it to post on FB) because it is SO very true… Keep climbing that ladder, you! 🙂


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