It feels weird to say but I think I’m struggling with culture shock. I grew up in a town of 80,000 people, but after living in major metropolitan areas for the past 12 years, even that feels small to me. Now I’m out in the middle of nowhere: 10 minutes from a town of 350 people. I’m used to there being 3 Targets within 10 miles of my house. Now the closest one is 65 miles away. I expect businesses to be open 24 x 7 x 365. Here, they close at 5 pm on Fridays and aren’t even open on Sundays. And because this is a tourist area, a lot of the ‘area attractions’ are only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Travis’ parents have deer carcasses hanging in a tree – a tree you can see from their kitchen window. They shoot porcupines and beavers for being nuisances to trees. They hunt and fish year round. They have more guns than I have fingers. They lease land from a logging company specifically for hunting.
Don’t get me wrong – I love my in-laws (hence my willingness to live with them for several months while we look for a house). And it is true that they’re farther out in the boonies than many people. But a lot of these things are just realities of living in a rural area. To visit specialized doctors or go to a real shopping mall, they drive all the way to Fargo – 3 hours away, one way. Just Walmart is 25 minutes away.
It’s one thing to visit during holidays; it’s another to actually plan on living here. To be honest, it has made me start questioning my desire to live in Brainerd (with neighboring Baxter, the population is 20,000). They have a Target, Kohl’s, Menards, Home Depot, JCPenney, Walmart and Fleet Farm. They have a Starbucks and a library. There’s no shopping mall, but I hardly ever shop at full-price stores anymore anyway.
I have a friend Emily who lives in Park Rapids (the nearest town to here, population 3,500). She grew up in Ramsey, a northern suburb of the Cities, and she said it was a big adjustment moving to Park Rapids. It took a couple of years, but now she feels like Brainerd and Bemidji (13,000) are the big cities. So it is possible to adjust.
I think a common question for city folks like me when they come up here, especially in the winter, is “What do you people DO here?” I grew up in Minnesota and have been around Travis’ family enough to know that there are lots of winter activities: snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, sledding, ice hockey, broomball, ice skating. Only problem is, it’s often too cold outside to do that stuff!
I think a lot of my apprehension comes from having Emma, at the age she is. There’s a very limited amount of things she’s willing to do, and those things have a time limit – either because she gets bored, or I get tired from pushing/holding/lifting her. And for pretty much all of those winter activities I listed above, Emma is too young (though she will be old enough next winter for some of them). In the city, it was nice to have lots of parks, museums, shopping malls and playgrounds (open year round) to choose from. There were walking trails near our house. So part of my trouble now should get better once we move from tiny Nevis to bigger Brainerd.
The other part of my apprehension comes from just not being plugged in to our new life here. We’re in this limbo stage, where we’re too far from Brainerd (1 ½ hours) to start getting plugged in, and the people we meet here will be too far away to stay in touch with once we move . So I don’t have many friends or activities to occupy my time other than hanging out at home and venturing into town a couple times a week. The relaxation has been nice, but after another couple months of this…?
But when I think about why I question moving to Brainerd, my main reason is fear. Fear that I’ll be bored to death. Fear that there will be nothing to do. Fear that my city-girl self won’t be able to adapt – or won’t want to adapt – to small-town ways.
I have to admit that it’s easy for me to fall into the trap of feeling superior in a small town. “These small-town folks – how in touch with the real world are they? Look where they live. Look what they wear. Look how they decorate their houses. Look what they drive. Look what they do for fun. I’ll never be like that.”
That judgment, though, is just me trying to rid myself of some of the awkwardness I feel from being out of my element. It’s also very arrogant – saying that I know everything there is to know about the world from living in a big city, and small town people are small-minded and have nothing to teach me.
God’s love frees me from having to judge others. Being grounded in His love for me enables me to be confident in who I am in Christ, so I don’t need to prove myself to anyone. When I am confident in who I am, I don’t feel pressure to completely conform to the culture and lose my identity, but I also don’t need to dig my heels in against everything that is different from what I’m used to.
For example, I’ve been thinking about running in the winter up here. Often it’s so cold that I will have to run inside. Brainerd does not have an indoor track (that I know of) so it will be either a treadmill or nothing. I could get frustrated and grumble about not being able to run in the winter, saying “This sucks” and “Stupid small town” or I could embrace the opportunity to expand my horizons, and snowshoe and cross-country ski more. That is a big benefit of the small town! The trails for that sort of thing are MUCH closer than they were in Denver.
The anxiety and uncertainty I feel about moving to Brainerd reminds me that this move requires faith. Just like moving out to Colorado required faith. Faith that God is leading us. That we’re leaving behind everything and everyone we know to forge a new life, in faith that God is everything He says He is, and will do everything He has promised.
The Jesus Calling devotion today was EXACTLY what I needed to hear:
“Trust Me, and don’t be afraid. Many things feel out of control. Your routines are not running smoothly. You tend to feel more secure when your life is predictable. Let Me lead you to the rock that is higher than you and your circumstances. Take refuge in the shelter of My wings, where you are absolutely secure.
“When you are shaken out of your comfortable routines, grip My hand tightly and look for growth opportunities. Instead of bemoaning the loss of your comfort, accept the challenge of something new. I lead you on from glory to glory, making you fit for My kingdom. Say yes to the ways I work in your life. Trust Me, and don’t be afraid.”
Are you a city-goer or small-town folk?
Have you ever made the switch from urban to rural, or vice versa? I can see that going either way would be challenging!