It’s a small world. I’ve been traveling for a couple of weeks and everywhere I go I meet people from Texas. Earth, Shamrock, Farwell, Littlefield. You are everywhere. When people ask me where I am from there are two responses. The first response is curiosity. That response is from people who have never been to West Texas. They wonder about my transition from big city life to small town life.
One woman described her daily 55 mile commute from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. For two years she drove an additional 20 miles to complete graduate school. On top of that she has a husband and two small children who require her attention. I remember those days. I commuted to work, class, and an internship while I was in graduate school in Philadelphia. Thousands of other people in the area drove from place to place. The travel seemed endless and the traffic was awful.
When I moved to upstate New York to work on my doctorate, I was conscious of how much stress I would leave behind. The simple life was very appealing. After I finished my studies I stayed for a while and enjoyed the peace and quiet. Going back to visit the city meant traffic, crowds, and unpredictable daily interactions. When I lived there I didn’t notice any of those things.
The second reaction I get when people ask me where I live is complete understanding. These people usually tell me that they are from somewhere close by. Often, they have moved elsewhere and returned to their West Texas towns. A judge from one small town described his commute. Ten minutes after he finishes tying his tie, he is on the bench hearing his first case. He and his wife raised three children in his town and are happy to stay there.
I believe that the flashiness and excitement of city life is fiction. In movies and television, people live fabulous lives and are always in the middle of an adventure. The daily grind is never depicted in an honest way. We see huge apartments, glamorous work, and beautiful people. In reality, there is more happening in the city, good and bad. There are more people, good and bad. The frequency of good and bad days is about the same. Is it exciting? Yes, there is constant activity. The rest is Hollywood fantasy. The police don’t look like Will Smith and the waitresses don’t look like Jennifer Aniston. It would be nice though!
One of the benefits of being a student at Wayland is the option to take classes at the external campuses. There are campuses in large cities like Phoenix, San Antonio, and Albuquerque where students can experience a change of atmosphere and see different lifestyles. The biggest difference is that those campuses cater to adult students. People with jobs, families, and other obligations take classes at night and on weekends. What we call “non-traditional” students are actually people who have interesting lives, maybe a few of them are even glamorous, but the priorities are the same. Getting an education and having a better life.
Now that I think of it there are fellow small town people who do not understand the appeal to people like me. They think it is too predictable and boring. They are realistic about the lack of opportunities in a closed community, but their ideas about bustling city life are usually based on television or movies. Their eyes glaze over and they ask why anyone would ever choose this over that. I would choose a TV life too, if I had a choice. Giant apartments, evening gowns, and exotic vacations are very attractive, that’s why we see them all the time! But people are people and I would choose small town people any time. In fact, I already have.