I grew up in a pretty small town. And in a rural area of that town, no less. I never once felt it to be scary, creepy, or odd. I used to spend many late evenings alone outside on our dock by the lake, and my bedroom window peered directly into some woods across the street. Neighbors’ voices would echo, the sounds of creatures in the woods would snap and crackle, and I just took it for granted.
After high school I lived in a dorm for two years, which I instantly liked, and then moved for the next two years to downtown Grand Rapids with a friend. During that time I also went and spent months in Shanghai and Nanjing China, and eventually made my way to Chicago, where I spent the last 6 years.
The move upward in cities has always felt right to me. While there’s a lot to love about rural or small town life, I’ve always been very, very comfortable in cities. And it turns out, I’m MORE comfortable in cities.
I began to notice this about two years ago, when I’d go visit my parents. They live in the same city, but their house now is even more secluded and woodsy. Not only would the woodsy noises startle me and keep me on my toes at night, but so would the thought: “Any wacko could come right up to this house.” Relatedly, “There is no one around to see or hear me!”
While this can be glorious during the day, it’s begun to creep me out at night. Turns out I’ve learned to take great comfort in city life. At home in Chicago at any moment I’m probably within shouting distance of at LEAST 1000 people. At my parents’? Maybe 7. (Here it’s got to be more like 25, but still.)
Sure enough, I’ve been a bit spooked down here the last two nights. Last night was silent, which was spooky. Tonight I can hear a party nearby. But because I’m separated from the party only by a our home’s walls and one lock, rather than 3 stories and 3 locks as in Chicago, it’s weirding me out.
I’m sure with time I’ll come back around to smaller town life and its noises, comforts, and safeties. But today? Mostly alone? I just feel vulnerable. Most Chicagoans worry about increased density in their neighborhoods. Me, here, tonight, in this twin-city area that still claims about 100,000 residents, I’m for it.