Words from a hillbilly

My name is Nia and I come from a small town. Like, really really microscopic-level small. I tell people I graduated with 80 people in my class and their first response is “Oh cool you went to a private school!” to which I reply: nope. It was painfully public.
Laingsburg is located 30 minutes north of Lansing (the city I tell people I’m from in every college icebreaker) and is surrounded by corn fields for ten miles in any given direction. A quarter of the school population is in FFA (Future Farmers of America, for those of you who don’t know), there is an annual “drive your tractor to school day,’ and yes, like the country school stereotype, almost everyone is related by blood or marriage. After all, it’s a town that no one leaves or enters. An island in the middle of Michigan. But when I was growing up, I was an island within that island.

My mom is from New York, my dad is from North Dakota, both taught at MSU when I was young, so I lived equidistant from the highway that leads to Lansing and Laingsburg. My parents thought it would be good for me to be involved in a small town community, but little did they know the exclusion that came without having any family ties within the town.

This isn’t to say I didn’t have friends growing up. Two of the most important people in my life are my childhood friends Erica and Addi, but it wasn’t until I was older that I realized the start of our friendship was mostly due to our collective difference from the other people of Laingsburg than our similarities to each other. Addi was adopted when she was in third grade, and Erica’s parents moved to Laingsburg from different areas of Lansing. The three of us were an unlikely trio of nomads without bloodlines rooting us to Laingsburg.
As dismaying as this fact was when I was in grade school and all the brownie points came from whose parents were related to whom, I could not be happier now for my detachment.

Laingsburg is a lovely little town, but with more emphasis on little. The people who live there have had parents who lived there, and grandparents who lived there, some all the way back to the town’s founding. And this fact makes me glad to have had the experiences I have had, and to have been able to experience different cultures in the urban and liberal environment of Ann Arbor.

My parent’s always told me to reserve my judgment, and I think the duality of my rural upbringing and metropolitan college experience is what really solidifies that for me. In both cases, you cannot judge people from different backgrounds. I don’t hate Laingsburg or the people within it. Yes I wish they could experience more of the world and be more informed about different cultures and styles of living, but I wish the same for many of the people I have met in liberal Ann Arbor. I wish they understood what it means to be from a small town, with the comfort of everyone knowing your name.

Each life style comes with it’s own pluses and minuses, but the point is: go and exist where you are comfortable and happy, and reserve your judgment from those who choose to live differently. I have legitimately been called a “Hick” in Ann Arbor, and a “City Girl” (not a good connotation) in Laingsburg. Living on both sides of the spectrum during formative years of my life makes it so crystal clear to me that your lifestyle is exactly that: YOURS. Be where you are happy and healthy and surrounded by people who support and love you. The people of Laingsburg are happy where they are. The people of Ann Arbor are happy where they are. My hope is that you are happy where you are too, and can respect the happiness of those in other places.

Other important thing about me: I’m really obsessed with corgis, here’s a gif of one wigglin it’s bunz 🙂

4 thoughts to “Words from a hillbilly”

  1. Hi Nia,
    I think your hometown tells a lot about you that I wouldn’t know otherwise. I’m from right outside New York City and went to a high school with 4,000 people, so a completely opposite story. Some people there think I’m crazy for going to Michigan and make a lot of prejudgments about it. They are shocked when I say Ann Arbor is a city. I love Ann Arbor and I love New York and feel a connection to both, so I get that.
    – Delaney

  2. right in the feels

    I feel like we had a really similar experience, and I’m happy we can bond about FFA and tractors! This was a v relatable read for me and I’m glad to finally find someone who feels the same way about their hometown as me (emphasis on town)

  3. This was really well-written and moving! I’m from a suburb of Detroit, so I don’t know much about what it’s like to live in a small town, but I love how you describe it as an island within Michigan. It seems like your upbringing informs a lot of who your are, and I think that’s very very cool.

  4. Hi Nia! I’m a capstone student who was just stumbling through the blog, searching for project motivation when I read your post. I wanted to tell you that I can really relate to your situation. I am from a small town called Pinckney about 35 minutes north of Ann Arbor. I totally get what it’s like coming from a small town to Ann Arbor. I actually wrote a personal essay about it last semester and really learned a lot about myself through the process. I’m not sure what you were planning to focus on for your gateway, but maybe consider writing about the duality you experience — you might learn a lot about yourself, too! 🙂


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