I am a small town veteran.
I survived 18 years growing up in an itty-bitty township in Southern Ontario. It was “quaint”—or some word similar to “quaint,” used in the brochures meant to lure in tourists and their beloved tourist dollars.
A brief interlude with post-secondary education meant some escape (and escapades) in the booming metropolises of Waterloo and Oakville. Then I graduated and became a “grown up” in the “real world.”
At which point? Yep. Back to a small town.
This one being in Northwestern Ontario, complete with a four hour drive to any substantial city.
This town comes with minus-40 winters. But it’s a “dry” cold. Whatever that means.
Like I said: veteran.
And like any veteran at the ripe old age of 27-almost-28, I am now willing to share my knowledge of small town survival. At least once a week* you’ll get a brand new nugget of wisdom from me.
Because you never know when you’re going to end up here or there, or somewhere that is a nowhere.
To start things off, I will begin with the most important, number one, absolutely-must-be-remembered-or-else-you-are-doomed-because-everything-stems-from-this topic:
#1. Gossip. Where small towns are vikings!
Small towns thrive on gossip. They hum with it.
Unlike cities of millions or even tens of thousands, you cannot disappear or blend in. You cannot just find new friends, a new gym, a new supermarket, or whatever “new” is needed to escape said gossip.
People will know stuff about you before you even know they exist. It may not be accurate information, but that’s not the point. They will know, they will talk, and then everyone will know.
Which is why it’s especially important to ask yourself “Am I willing to deal with any blow back that comes from XYZ words or actions.”
Consider this even if what you think you’re doing or saying is harmless, because whatever it is will eventually be warped and blown out of proportion. That is the way of gossip. If it can come back to bite you on the arse, it can and it will.
If you can’t deal with that, you are not small town material. I can’t even say “just never leave your house” because that’s an action that will stir up even more gossip and speculation.
It’s not that small town people purposely chatter away and spill the beans with malicious intent … most of the time. It’s mainly because we are a curious people by nature and don’t have much else to do because, well, small town!
Gossip just happens, and BOOM! The person keying the code for tomatoes into the cash register at the grocery store will ask you about the years you spent as a bearded lady touring with the circus.
And that’s if you’re lucky.
Because the other option is that people will talk about it, and they won’t say it to your face. You will just be judged, and not even realize that every single interaction with another person will have this tidbit of knowledge (or misinformation) humming underneath from here until the end of time. That’s right, end of time. Not even your death will end the gossip.
It sucks, but it is what it is, and it will never change. Hence this being #1 on this list.
*And by weekly, I mean whenever it happens. After all, I’ve become accustomed to functioning on “small town time” which is a whole post in and of itself.