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Freeform Friday: Unexpected small town regrets

There are so many things I haven’t done.

When I was much younger, I knew I’d have to get out of my small, home town if I was ever going to experience “real” life. I couldn’t wait to stretch my wings and venture out into the big, wide world. In my mind, visions of New York City and San Francisco jostled for room next to slightly less tangible impressions of Paris, Rome, and some unidentified locale that left me with a smoky, windswept sense of Colorado, or maybe Montana.

I never made it past Boston.

Though I was accepted to several New York universities, it was the nearby Boston College campus that eventually bore witness to my first night away from home. I had traveled domestically with my family (thirty-two days driving around the country with my parents and sister … in a Volkswagen Rabbit) and my post-college life included a variety of big-city business trips, but I never did fly far from the nest. Other than brief stints in two neighboring towns, I have lived in my hometown for my whole life.

Sometimes, I wonder what adventures life might have brought me if I had slipped the noose of comfortable familiarity and escaped into the wild, blue yonder. What would I have done? Where would I have gone? What would I have seen? Whom would I have met?

Of course, now, I’ll never know.

Whatever opportunities I had for running away from home are far behind me now. I am grown up with a daughter of my own. I have roots and responsibilities and a routine. I have two cats for company and karate classes four times a week. My daughter has friends here.  My beau and I have our favorite Friday night hang out. We all have family close by. This small town has become our world.

And, that’s okay.

I have friends who travel extensively and even live abroad. A writer friend of mine relocated her entire family to France for two years. Another couple I met through online channels are currently living in Spain, teaching English, taking pictures, and writing poetry and novels. Another writer friend is heading out to Saigon for a couple months.

I sometimes feel as if these people are much braver than I. But then I remember that it also takes courage to stay in one place, to open up by becoming part of a community.

I rarely regret anymore that I chose Boston over New York. I hardly give it a second thought that I’ve never lived in another country or experienced the excitement of visiting exotic destinations. Instead, I am grateful that I have found a place I’m happy to call home.

That isn’t to say I don’t have any regrets.

Someone died last week. It was unexpected. I didn’t know his name until I read his obituary, but I knew his face. I’d seen him around town many times, waved or nodded to him often, and once or twice shared a table at the local coffee house. He was part of the fabric of my town – a familiar figure, a ready smile, a nameless neighbor.

When I learned of his passing, I was struck with a sharp sense of loss. I did not know this man, but I could have. I could have, but I’d let the chance slip through my fingers because I was busy or didn’t know what to say or just didn’t think enough to make an effort.

And now I’m sorry.

There are so many things I haven’t done, but perhaps in a small town it’s more important to consider all the people you haven’t met. This small town where I live is my corner of the world, and the people in it are what make it the wonderful place  it is. I still marvel at all the wonders of the world beyond our modest  borders, but I also see that there is much exploring to do here right at home.



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  1. This touched my heart Jamie…and I have to say that your words have inspired a blog post. I’ll let you know once I share this response in the next couple of weeks (and give you credit for the inspiration!).

    Thank you for sharing so openly of your experience today.

    • Jamie Lee

      Oh! I look forward to that, Sabrina.
      This was definitely a departure for me. The whole Freeform Friday series is a different groove for me, but this one in particular was a bit more personal than usual. It’s funny how certain events strike us in unexpected ways.

      Thanks for coming by.
      Can’t wait to read your post.

  2. Jamie,
    This is a lovely piece – thank you! I have lived abroad and in NYC, and I chose to live in small-town Vermont – with no regrets! In fact, I think my Vermont circle is much more diverse than my NYC circle. Not ethnically, but economically, educationally, politically, and personally. And we have to get along, regardless: there are so few of us, we depend on each other to pull us out of snowbanks and to help one another during natural disasters, like Tropical Storm Irene, in 2011. Hooray for small town living! Best,

    • Jamie Lee

      Thank you, Deborah.
      You are right that small town living requires us to live cooperatively. We may not have all the amenities of a big city, but I much prefer the sense of community (even if it’s sometimes akin to having to get along with family!). It’s so interesting that you have found greater diversity in a small town than you did in NYC. I think if you pick the right town, that probably happens quite frequently. Different people are drawn to small town living for different reasons and you often wind up with quite an eclectic mix of folks.

      Thanks for reading and for the comment. Have a lovely weekend. :)

  3. It takes courage to grow roots and thrive in one place, and it’s easy to forget when we compare ourselves to those who wander the world.

    I’ve had a bit of both, and admit I’m sometimes struck by a case of longing for whichever one I’m not choosing in the moment. It may be a case of the grass is always greener 😉

    • Jamie Lee

      I think many people probably feel the way you do, Sandi – wanting whichever lifestyle they don’t have at the moment. Even the most diehard homebody can suffer from a case of wanderlust. 😉

      Happily, both scenarios have their lessons to teach and experiences to be enjoyed.

      Thanks for coming by. Always nice to see you.

      PS – Love the new profile pic – kind of mystical.

  4. Dan Beaton

    Hi Jamie
    I recently moved to Ipswich from Georgetown. I lived and worked there for 37 years. I got to know many of the residents some by name and some by face. I share your experience of not taking the time to get to put names to the faces.
    Now I’m a “Newbe” to Ipswich and I’m not going to repeat that lack of effort. Since moving here I’ve bought my computer from Scott at the computer store, registered to vote, registered my dog and will get my beach sticker soon. Each trip down town to a local store is an opportunity to say hello and meet someone new “with a name.”
    So when I get to Zumi’s (I’m not going in alphabetical order) I’ll be sure to say hello and introduce myself.
    Take care

    • Jamie Lee

      Welcome to town, Dan!
      Sounds like you’re off to a great start getting settled in an acclimated. I’m biased, but think Ipswich is one of the best, little towns on the northshore.

      I look forward to meeting you at Zumi’s one of these days. They have great music on Saturday mornings, so that’s always a fun time to go hang out for a bit.

      Enjoy & I’m sure I’ll see you soon!

  5. Laura

    I was born in Cambridge, MA and then subsequently moved to Colorado, California, South Carolina, back to Mass. and then finally, New Hampshire, where I’ve buried roots since 1987.
    I’ve been to Montreal, Quebec, passed thru Germany and spent three weeks at an archeaological dig in the Jezreel Valley, Israel.

    There’s nuthin’ like home and being connected to the people who surround us in our daily lives.
    Connection has nothing to do with distance.
    It’s related to who we’re with in the moment! I believe if we consciously relate to whoever is in our immediate proximity, we’ll make meaningful connections that will often surprise us and add a layer of depth to our lives.

  6. Laura

    Oh..and Italy…and Pennsylvania…and New York…
    and no matter where I’ve been people are still people like the ones who surround us in our small towns.

    • Wow, Laura! That is one well-traveled life! What wonderful adventures you must have had.

      So true what you say about taking the time to make meaningful connections no matter where you are. It doesn’t take much to initiate a conversation, but it can make a huge difference in your world and your life.

      Thanks for coming by!

      • Laura

        It’s not how far you’ve travelled but the people you make connections with that mean so much. Sometimes the biggest connections take place in small moments of time and as you’ve shown, in close proximity.

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