It’s official now. I’ve gone rural. Similar to gone country but a bit more Western, I think. I grew up in a town of 135,000 so I’m not rural by upbringing — wholly by choice.
Declaring my pastoral designation after having lived in Wyoming for 21 years is not really a newsflash. Some may even say that living within a community of 15,000 isn’t nearly as rural as, say, Yoder. (I love to say Yoder.)
Anyway, after spending the weekend in Denver, Sheridan is looking a whole lot more rural in comparison to even the far suburbs.
I used to think I wanted to live in a big city. My mom and I went on a car trip to the west coast after graduation to scout Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. That was when I first realized I may be an agrarian deep down.
The traffic, the pollution, the overwhelming array of choices blew me away. Did I mention the traffic? It was all an assault on my senses. But the final nail in the urban-life coffin was living in the heart of London for four months. Incredible opportunity, yes. Memories and friendships that will last a lifetime, yes. Repeat occurrence? No.
The first Christmas I went home to Illinois, I explained to my parents’ friends that I had moved to Wyoming. No, not Wyoming, Ill., up the river. Wyoming the actual state. Yes, out west. No, not Jackson Hole.
It brought back annoying flashbacks of my freshman year at the University of Kansas where I would introduce myself as being from Peoria, Ill., and inevitably would receive one of two responses: “Oh! Is that a suburb of Chicago?” or “Oh! Emporia (KS)?”
Cue my deep and aggrieved sigh.
At my 20-year class reunion (I graduated early at age 8), most of my classmates were incredibly envious of my relocation choice and many angled for an invitation to come stay. Others were not as impressed. One fellow graduate who now resides in Chicago all but implied that I lived in the land of covered wagons and hostiles. He can just keep thinking that. It’s why he chose Chicago.
What I didn’t bother to tell him but I’ve stated repeatedly in this column is that living in Sheridan, Wyo., is the bee’s knees.
I realize there’s no Target. No Coldstone Creamery. No authentic Lebanese food. No escalators. So what?
That just means that it’s a treat to go out of town for a little while and experience all that.
It also means that you get to come home and appreciate what we do have. We can walk down the aisle at Safeway and smile at strangers and neighbors alike.
We don’t have to fight six lanes of traffic to go to work every day. Few worry about their kids playing outside here. And for a town of this size, our restaurant selection is varied and impressive.
Embrace your inner agrarian! It’s good to be from the country.
Amy Albrecht is the director of the Center for a Vital Community at Sheridan College.