Things that Happen When You Move from Small Town America

Listen y’all, I didn’t realize how small town, western Oklahoma, I was until I moved to Norman. I stood up in my first class on my first day feeling very confident in my cute outfit and make up, opened my mouth to introduce myself, and without thinking about it said, “Hey y’all I’m BRandy.”

Before I could even get to the where I was from part, everyone laughed and someone in my class said, “Western Oklahoma?” I nodded and told them what town, which they didn’t recognize. This was the beginning of realizing how different the way I lived was from the way people in the ‘big cities’ and ‘out here’ live. So, I decided to put together a list of ___ things that happen when you move elsewhere from your small town.

  1. You have to come up with a feasible way to explain to people where you’re from.
    Even though I stayed in state for college, when I answer the where I’m from question I am returned with a blank stare. If you know where my hometown is I know you fit in one of two categories, your family is rooted in the oil field or your family travels east on I-40 regularly. When someone doesn’t know where a place is, the next typical question is, “Well, what’s it by.” The first time I encountered this question, I cocked my head and thought about it. The truth is- nothing. We’re not 45 minutes from Tulsa or northwest OKC. We don’t have any fancy landmarks. I could answer you and say, “Texas” but that doesn’t do anyone much good. On my way to my camping trip we drove right through my neck of the woods. Many people on the trip were from cities or places with lots of trees and mountains like Colorado. Some of the girls pulled out their phones and started Snapchatting their friends, “Because there’s literally nothing here.” Yeah, that’s where I’m from. My roommate, who is also from my hometown, taught me the best way I’ve seen to do it. If you tilt your hand and make it look like Oklahoma, and touch almost Texas, but not quite, on the west side towards the middle you’re pretty much touching where I call home.
  2. You realize how weird some of the things you do and are used to are.
    I will never forget that one of the evening I was at dinner with some friends, and it was still the beginning of the semester, so we were having the ever so cliche conversations still about our lives and what we do for fun. When it was my turn to answer, I said the drag only to be met by blank looks. “The…the what?” One of my friends asked. Seriously, I didn’t even know it wasn’t a thing other places. So I fumbled through trying to explain. “Well, there’s this kind of circle, it’s more oblong actually and people drive it turning around in parking lots and people park along the side. A lot of times they’re looking for parties, fights, or races- but even if the latter two they aren’t very serious, because basically everyone 16-23 is out, so cops are too. And you play dumb street games and you just hang out with you friends and sometimes you park… Listen, it was really fun when I was in high school and lived in a town with literally nothing else to do.” I mean, you could, and did, go to Walmart for fun sometimes.
  3. Your vocabulary is a little different
    I thought y’all was an Oklahoma thing. It is apparently not. I also say things like neck of the woods, caddy corner, bless their heart, the list goes on of things I say regularly that make my friends who grew up in other places turn, look, and smirk.
  4. People are perplexed by some of the things you never realized were “just small town things”
    It was a hard learning curve to learn to remember to lock my car and my door each and every time I left. Where I’m from, houses are often left unlocked. Cars are hardly ever locked. I had to learn to always take my key with me and to remember to take my keys out of my car. My friends who grew up in bigger cities were genuinely concerned for me. The thing is, I think I may have had a house key for approximately two weeks back when I was twelve. I lost it and it didn’t really matter because I didn’t need it anyways. A friend who was on holiday was astounded when we went over to another person’s house and not only was it not locked, I didn’t knock to go in either. “That’s a good way to get shot in the city.” She affirmed.
    Another thing I just took for granted was the fact that men hold the door open. Children hold it open for people younger than them as well. I can’t tell you how many times I have had the door shut on me because I just took for granted that the guy who’s hands were completely empty and had been walking leisurely in front of me, couldn’t find the time to hold the door open even when I was struggling with a large or unruly bags. Every time, I get flustered and wonder who raised this heathen. The biggest breath of fresh air was one time, near the end of the semester I stopped forty five minutes outside my hometown to pick up some pizza for my family. As I turned to leave, carrying two pizza boxes and a bottle of pop, a gentleman who had been preoccupied on his phone waiting on his own pizza, jumped up and held the door for me. He then proceeded to follow me out and opened my (unlocked) car door as well. All I could think was It is good to be home. When I got home and texted my boyfriend about the helpful event, he was genuinely confused. “That could get you killed B.” Not in Western Oklahoma, out here manners are standard.
  5. Not knowing everyone and their whole life story is a bit disorienting.
    I grew up in a town where maybe I didn’t know everyone, but I didn’t go anywhere I didn’t know someone and you can bet that even if I don’t know someone personally, their circle somehow overlaps with mine whether it’s the fact their niece goes to school with me, their spouse is my teacher, or they knew one (probably both) of my parents. I knew everyone in my graduating class and could tell you their entire high school transformation. When I wanted to introduce my boyfriend to people in my life, I could just take him to Walmart because everyone was there.
    Now, I live somewhere where I don’t know most people and most people don’t know me. While I got taught by some of the same teachers that taught my parents, I am now in lectures so big I am just a face in the crowd. It’s a little unnerving.
  6. Things like your options and technology can be overwhelming.
    There are literally so many options here. I can go to any fast food I could want, I can shop at any store, I can also go early in the morning or late at night. There are apps that I can use to order food and pay for it (AND HAVE IT DELIVERED) or to get someone to give me a ride (the whole concept of this one freaks my grandma out, so I’ve yet to use it). My best friend and I couldn’t decide where to eat my senior year, so we made a jar to draw sticks out of, so you should definitely feel bad for my friends now. There is a mall literally a fifteen minute drive from me. Some places that used to be special trips that I posted about on social media are now casual hang outs because they are finally within driving distance.
  7. You are way behind on the latest fashion. 
    Not only did I live in a small town, I lived in a small, Western Oklahoma town. We got the latest fashion about six months to a year after it hit most places. I got to college and was genuinely confused by what was in. Now I go home and people are wonder why I’m wearing what I’m wearing. Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means a fashion guru and would much rather just wear tights and a sweater, but I definitely feel more up to date on the latest trends from fashion to slang than I ever was living back home.

I’m sure I could give you a million more examples, but I will stop there. What are some things that you experience moving from a small town to a bigger one or vise versa?


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