My Ten Best Tips for Displaced Small Town Locals

by - Thursday, October 06, 2016

Thought of this old post this morning. Might be helpful if you are a displaced Franklinite like we are! 

franklin applefest courthouse

This week, more than any, really makes me reflect on how much I miss Franklin, how different my life is not being a part of my hometown, and (more so every year) how long I have been gone. From what I can tell, lots of people who grow up in Franklin go through this sort of thing. You leave Franklin for school, hopeful that you will be able to come back, and then you realize there are no job opportunities for you there, and essentially you can't return even if you want to. These are some survival skills I have learned in my 9 (!!!!) years away from home:

10. Be clear about your priorities- Being homesick is one thing. Figuring out what you value about life, family, and PLACE is another. Place is important, and knowing what you need from the place that you live will make life much better. Maybe you need a strong community. Or you just need to recognize the people you see at the grocery store. Or you want simplicity, stability, and safety. They are different needs, and different types of places can suit them.  I am certain now that if we move somewhere else, I would rather live in a more urban area, because you spend less time passing Costco's and Chili's and such, and you see more people because you are on foot more often.

Update- We did this! We live in an urban area and we actually have seen people we know in stores and on the street. So awkward, but really wonderful too. 

9. Go Back when you need to- Everyone will need immediate support (you need to find some people around you to have a community) and longterm support, which is usually family. Be honest with yourself about how often you need to come home without going crazy. I need to go home every 2-3 months, but I think The Boy could go much longer. At the same time, understand that this is never going to be a long term solution. If you have kids, especially ones in school, you will not be able to travel as much, so if your travel schedule is a stretch now, you may have to re-strategize again and again.

8.Talk to people who went through it- My Grammy and Grampa grew up in New England and only moved down to Franklin when their kids were in school.I like looking at how they have found a place, and in some ways chosen to remain distant, in the community, because it makes me hopeful that eventually you can make another place your (sort-of) home.

7. Be Flexible/ Ready to get Lost- This applies to wherever you are at; it is probably larger and more complex. Put yourself out there, and get lost now and then. The scarier side of this is actually you have to be flexible when you go home, be ready to feel a little lost there as well. Things will continue to change and grow while you are gone. Even though Franklin feels a bit like a living time capsule, it's not, and the more time you spend back, the more you have to come to terms with the fact that everyone has moved on without you, and that it isn't what it was when you lived there.

skyping with kids on a laptop

6. Enjoy the digital world- Skype, facebook, picture phones. They are all awesome. You can be as connected to the people you love as you want to be with technology, because at the very least you can know what they are up to on a regular basis. We love skyping with Petey and Wobby (and other family too!), because we get to talk to them and be silly with them between visits. I love seeing pictures of my girlfriends' kids, because they change and grow so quickly.

5. Celebrate your Franklin holidays, even when you can't be there- Apple Week!!!!!!!! I wonder if we could do Light Up Night. Setting off fireworks seems like a dangerous move? I wonder if I could do an ice sculpture next year? So many choices. It can be fun to think of ways to make your current home more like your hometown.

4. Read The Derrick online- It is helpful to keep up with what is going on, at least in a very basic sense. Plus, I get to read my Dad's articles.

3. Find communities where you are at- It won't be the same. You won't be hanging out with people whose grandparents were in the army with your grandparents.But every place and every person have something to teach you, so you have to take advantage of that knowledge and opportunity. I bellyache about the Bay often, and there are a lot of things about the way people treat each other that can be tough for me to understand. At the same time, I have met some spectacular people here, and we can drive to the beach whenever we want for Whaleventures. And I discovered garlic fries and the best dentist I have ever had in my life. Now, when we talk about leaving or moving, I feel sad, because I know I will miss certain things about my life here.

Update- In Seattle, we have found some really great communities with people we really really like. Having kids help, though I would not recommend that as a go to coping method. This part gets easier and easier as the years pass by, and I would be so sad if we had never met the friends we have here. 

2. Understand that you are going to do a good chunk of the work most of the time- This has been the most shocking, complex, and ever-evolving lesson I have learned living on the other side of the country. First, when you live in a small town with most of your family, and where roots run deep, people are used to a particular function of a relationship. When you leave, people assume that you chose to leave, so it is your responsibility to take care of all of those relationships when you leave. I know this is true, because I felt that when my family moved away as a kid. In the same boat, they won't miss you in the same way, because you are just a small gap in their sheet of paper, but for you, all that is left is that little shred, and everything else is gone. If you live far away, people will visit you and it will be great, but you will find yourself on planes much more often.We have lots of family members who give us a hard time about never visiting, but they have never come to see us. We have some family who talk about visiting, but they probably never will. You have decided to make those relationships a huge priority in terms of money and time, so it can be hurtful when you realize that you aren't a priority in the same way. There are multiple ways to reciprocate effort in relationships- some people are much better at calling than we are, or who send us cards (which are so exciting to get). Learning to appreciate that effort is really important.

At the same time, it is alright to realize that a friend that still wants us to drive an hour every time we come home just to see them (after buying plane tickets and spending a day in transit) maybe just doesn't care that much. A small town allows a lot of friendships out of convenience to continue, because they continue to be convenient. Just because it is long doesn't mean it has a ton of depth or value. It's alright to stop chasing people just because you are home. Now, the only people we will go see without them asking are our grandparents, parents, and siblings. We make it clear we are coming home, and we will always say yes if people ask, but we don't worry about it much from there, and we are ALWAYS ridiculously busy. It is important to be honest about the frustration attached to this situation, while understanding that these people genuinely have never been in your shoes, and still identifying all of the positive things, love, and reciprocation that do come from coming back to Franklin.

Update- We have had a good number of visitors. Again, babies help with this. I find too that at this point, the sting of this has worn off. It's easier to not care, and I don't feel as sad about it. People are going to do whatever makes sense for them and they are able to do. If you don't get the support you need from home, instead of bellyaching about it, try to find support/ be a support to people nearby. Other people will be transplants too. 

1.Be strategic about your visits home- My Aunt Ann is really smart about this, that every time she goes home, she basically tells people where she will be at and let's people come to her. We run ourselves ragged trying to see everyone and do everything we want to do while we are home. Learn from mistakes and try to be patient with yourself when you are home. If anything, the bright side of #2 is that it gives you some freedom from feeling guilty. If I have come home almost 40 times over 5 years, and you have come to see me twice, even if I don't give you as much time as you want, I have probably still done alright. When you come home, you have to get what you need out of it (go eat Leonardo's bread, walk down Liberty Street, and visit your grandmas), and if people care about you, they will try to meet you halfway. Coming back can be tough, but this is the place that you missed, so enjoy it how you enjoy it.

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1 comments

  1. I need to print this out and tape it somewhere. I did not try hard enough to find a community in Austintown, I have not tried hard enough in Hermitage, and those perceived failures make me think I should not move anywhere else because I am so bad at it.

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