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Old 12-18-2013, 11:27 PM
Location: Seattle
59 posts, read 114,753 times
Reputation: 93


Hi all,

This seemed like the perfect forum for me to write this up in. I grew up in a rural town called LaGrange, in Georgia. It has about 30,000 people and is very old fashioned and traditional in a lot of ways. Some backstory: I am 23, a college graduate with a year of graduate school under my belt, and currently live in Atlanta working as a software engineer.

Ever since I can remember, I was different from the rest of the people I grew up with. I tended to read a lot, to enjoy spending a lot of time on the computer and playing video games, going to science fiction conventions, things like that. Not usually things that would be associated with rural living. I grew up on a farm, and learned how to take care of horses and other animals, and how to do things like build fences, bush hog fields, fix roofs, you know..the kind of things you'd expect to learn growing up on a farm in the woods in the South.

Like I said, I was never really like the rest of the people I was around. My best friend growing up lived down the road from me, and we worked together a lot during the summers. He was never interested in education, and dropped out of high school and (possibly) got his GED. He now lives in a double wide trailer, got married at 20, and has a four year old daughter. His wife works part time at McDonalds, and he works at a grocery store part time as well. My other friends never seemed to amount to much either. They would get into drugs, get crazy drunk during the week, most have been arrested or put in jail for stupid things. There's a ton of drama surrounding them pretty much all the time.

My dilemma was that I never wanted any of that. I wanted to get out of that small town and make something out of myself. I wanted to be successful with a good, stable career and a family when I get ready to have one instead of something totally unplanned. I was sent to a private school, paid for out of the Social Security money I received every month from my father's death. That kept me out of the public school system and away from a large amount of bad influences. The problem with that was that I was looked at as "uppity" and "arrogant" and "thinks-he's-better-than-you" because I got a decent education and was never arrested.

It got worse when people found out I was going to college. My family was very supportive, of course, but my friends felt the opposite. I wasn't "one of the boys" anymore; I was a jumped up college boy who thinks he's too good for the people he came up with. I was looked at as "abandoning my roots" and "forgetting where I came from".

Another issue came from me being generally a very liberal person in a very conservative area. My friends would display casual racism (towards all minorities) all the time. I didn't like that, but was made fun of for speaking my mind about it. For the record, I'm a left-leaning equality minded person, which is something very rare in a small Southern town. It set me apart from everyone else, but I can't help what I believe. If I believe something is right or wrong, then I do, and shouldn't feel unwelcome because of it.

So I severed contact with the people I grew up with. I didn't feel like I belonged in their world anymore, or that I even belonged in my hometown. I was never comfortable living in LaGrange - there was never anything to do except get into trouble, and I always looked for something bigger and better. I feel that I've always been a city man at heart - I love being around people, and I love the hustle and bustle of big city life. I finally got a job that paid what I wanted, and I moved to where I felt I belonged. I'm around like-minded people and I feel like I am welcome as opposed to being the odd man out.

I haven't set foot back in LaGrange for longer than two days since I moved away in 2008. I've never looked back and never had a desire to move back to that kind of place. I haven't had contact with the people that I knew for 15+ years since then either, with the exception of my childhood best friend. If he's happy, more power to him, but I always wanted something better for myself than living on a part time minimum wage job supporting a wife and kid, trying to figure out whether to pay the power bill or the rent on the double wide trailer.

I don't even know why I wrote this thread, to be honest. It just feels good to have this off my chest, since this is a forum full of small town and country people. I wonder how many people have felt like I did, and what their stories are.
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Old 12-19-2013, 12:25 AM
Location: Under the Redwoods
3,748 posts, read 6,331,560 times
Reputation: 6037
I enjoyed reading your experience and thoughts on the matter.
I am on the opposite end of the subject, I grew up in a big city (in the Bay Area, CA), longed for the trees and mountains. I was fine for the most part in the city I grew up in as far and the physical attributes, but I was an outcast in school and socially, got picked on a lot. As an only child, maybe I gave off that loner vibe, plus I was quiet. After high school, wanting to just get away from where people did know me, I moved to Long Beach in southern California. Made myself an outcast by expressing myself through the punk-underground scene. Made a habit of going camping almost every month, or twice a month sometimes. Made friends and had a great time.
Then the calling came. I had gotten the city out of my system and I wanted to be in nature.
Got there, moved up north to Mendocino county and raised kids there (have moved a bit south since then, but town is only about 10,000 in pop.) Would not want to go back to the city. I nearly had a panic attack when my husband tried to convince me to take a jump at a good deal that would require moving to the city.

I can sit on a hill for weeks and not care a bit about anything else. Sitting and watching the chickens is soothing and amusing. The 'hub' town were we did all the needed chores and errands was 14 miles away, had a population of about 3,000. Graduating class for the areas one high school is on average about 64 students. The town the high school is located has a population of 400.
The two boys I raised are about your age. One has remained on the hill and has built a cabin. He talks about venturing out, but that cabin will always be his home base. The other son is in his third year of serving in the Coast Guard. Last year he was in Bahrain, but this year he is 'home' taking a station that is just 3 hours from 'home base'.
They did not encounter the same 'off attitudes' that you did. Likely because the area is so large and yet so small in persons that there is different sense of community than an area of 30,000.
But, we do have those that go off to school and those that remain. Of those that remain, it is pretty much already known which direction they are going to go. Some will continue to be as their dysfunctional or addicted parents and others will make something of themselves. Those that stay or return after college take on the 'average job' but eventually become insurance or real estate agents, or open/buy a business locally.
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Old 12-19-2013, 10:04 AM
13,515 posts, read 14,739,083 times
Reputation: 37885
I grew up in a town 1/6 the size of yours, and I wanted to leave, and did. I lived in lived in NYC for the next forty years, never more than a fifteen minute ride at most from Times Square. Now I am retired in a town of 17,000...a very quiet place, except for the height of summer, and where you can be walking on a sea beach in less than five minutes walking, or drive out of town to the countryside in the same amount of time.

You may find after some years pass that you have the Big City under your belt, as well a lot of life, and that yet another type of living environment will draw you.
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Old 12-19-2013, 10:18 AM
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
18,760 posts, read 55,897,290 times
Reputation: 33052
I grew up in a small town and was bored spitless much of the time. Having half a brain and using it often separates people from "peers," especially if your focus is different than the cultural norm. The problems for youngsters like this are not as bad as in the pre-internet days, but finding good mentors and enough friends to learn socialization skills is still difficult.
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Old 12-19-2013, 10:37 AM
5,149 posts, read 4,381,897 times
Reputation: 11178
What you describe is what happens to everyone trying to better themselves. It is commonly called the crab bucket. If you are in the crab bucket the other crabs keep pulling you back down as you attempt escape. Well done on having the conviction to follow your ambitions.
Not all small towns or agricultural areas are backwaters but few provide diverse opportunities.
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Old 12-19-2013, 11:57 AM
12,686 posts, read 17,112,654 times
Reputation: 24583
I grew up in a town of about 25 to 28,000 people. I couldn't wait to leave. At age 18 I left and went on to achieve an advanced education that I felt then set me above the small minds of my small town. I lived in New Orleans and worked in the French Quarter and in the Washington D.C. area where I worked inside the Beltway for almost a decade. I traveled to north Africa and South America. At other times, I also lived and worked in a couple of other smaller American cities. What I found was the same ignorance, prejudice and anger that I had seen in my small town, only at a much greater density level. I am now back to a small town setting.

I am sure my words fall on deaf ears as youth in America have never listened to age and experience. I didn't. If you truly believe there is more happiness in a larger place, you simply need to go see for yourself. Most people do in fact find happiness in large herds. If they didn't, there wouldn't be any rural areas left in America.
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Old 12-19-2013, 01:00 PM
Location: Western Nebraskansas
2,707 posts, read 5,457,452 times
Reputation: 2416
30,000 is a small town?!?!?
I'm already well beyond the scope of conversation.... lol

In my part of the world, 1000 or fewer is a small town. Thirty-thousand is the "big city" that kids go to when they're dying to leave home!
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Old 12-19-2013, 01:13 PM
Location: UpstateNY
8,612 posts, read 8,570,709 times
Reputation: 7542
holy cow, our town is 650 people. I don't think I could bear to live in a town of 30K, we ran from that years ago.
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Old 12-19-2013, 02:18 PM
Location: We_tside PNW (Columbia Gorge) / CO / SA TX / Thailand
23,804 posts, read 41,457,887 times
Reputation: 25684
Originally Posted by halseyspartan2 View Post
Hi all,

... I grew up in a rural town called LaGrange, in Georgia. It has about 30,000 people and is very old fashioned and traditional in a lot of ways. ... I am 23, a college graduate with a year of graduate school under my belt, and currently live in Atlanta working as a software engineer.

... I grew up on a farm, and learned how to take care of horses and other animals, and how to do things like build fences, bush hog fields, fix roofs, you know..the kind of things you'd expect to learn growing up on a farm in the woods in the South.

... I wonder how many people have felt like I did, and what their stories are.
Rest assured there are thousands of kids like you loving Seattle, LA, SF, NYC, DC ... and even Atlanta (even my own 'country-raised / homeschooled' kids are doing this.)

And generations before you did this as well. Nothing wrong with it, and to be expected from many.

You are very young, you may or may not return to the country at some point. Don't burn any bridges and bloom where you are planted. Be adventurous and get out a bit (certainly away from GA and USA will help, especially for employment experience).

As a 'farm-kid' from a rural community (population 5) I would have never thought I would have been employed in high tech, paid (well) to live in Asia, Europe, Canada, and USA. (from remote islands to Metro Cities and Swiss ski villages ! All paid by an excellent company 100% for my family and I).

You are very fortunate to have a farm background and ability to build / fix / care for things... 90% of your peer group will never have that skill / depth of common sense. It will serve you well in future (Home-owner, traveler, student, life-long learner, worker, investor...) I even caught one of my kids watching This-Old-House' (They had to build their own homes while in Jr high, and HATED it... but it fueled their college funds by $70k)

I attended my first HS reunion (300 students) after 40 yrs, and it was a joke. Only my former 'country' grade school friends / 4-H members that grew up on nearby ranches and farms were interesting and enjoyable to talk to and way too many had died.

so... after MANY yrs down the path & retiring 'pre-50'... I still have connections and farm kid 'abilities' and have country homes I can enjoy (with country neighbors who are very kind and helpful). I am 20 minutes from a metro area with great colleges (20+) and a nice airport. I love my country roots, but they are not the only game in town. In retrospect... I should have stayed in closer touch with the rural neighbors of my childhood, they were very helpful in making me into what I was able to accomplish. They certainly never wanted to pursue my path (nor would they have enjoyed), but they enabled my abilities / personality to follow my own dreams, be successful (and fail) and still have a 'home' to return to.

Enjoy your journey, we each have our own! Be kind
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Old 12-19-2013, 03:13 PM
17,346 posts, read 14,445,716 times
Reputation: 24064
30,000 people, and add to that being an hour from downtown Atlanta is not a small town.
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