I assume that most of you, like myself, have spent your lives in small towns. I’ve lived in Sweetwater all my life, and even though a country-dwelling relative once asked me how I liked living in the big city, Sweetwater is pretty small on the town/city scale of size.
Have you enjoyed your life in the small town world? Does the lack of things to do and feeling, at times, like you’re stuck in 1973, leave you all giddy?
That’s a little mean, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, there aren’t a lot of things to do and getting new things from small-town budgets is like pulling healthy teeth, but Knoxville, a small city, is about 30 minutes away for most of us and you can find most things you want there without having to live with the noise, pollution and, worst of all, so many people.
But is the convenience of having a city only 30 minutes away enough to make up for being able to drive from one end of town to the other in five minutes if you hit the red lights just right?
And how do city people feel about us? Are they laughing at us rubes, wondering how in the world we survive in a place without clubs and bars that stay open until 2 a.m.? Or are they jealous, envying our quiet world as they try to sleep with non-stop, 24-hour sounds?
As you might suspect, a study has been done on who is more happy between small towners and big citiers (are towners and citiers words?), and while this study was done in Canada, there’s enough similarities between the two that we can probably apply the study to ourselves as well.
The Vancouver School or Economics and McGill University did the study, asking 400,000 (!) Canadians in 1,200 communities how happy they were and whether or not where they lived had anything to do with it.
What they found was that 20 percent of the happiest people lived in small towns while 20 percent of the most miserable lived in big cities. In Toronto, Hamilton and Kitchener, three of the bigger cities in Canada, were particularly unhappy.
What was the common factor between being happy and unhappy? The amount of people. The study found that if you lived in a small town and, outside of work, interacted with less than 10 people a day, you tended to smile more.
Conversely, if you lived in a big city, where you see more than 10 people before you leave your apartment building or walk down the street, you’re much more likely to end the day with a frown.
Space, or lack of it, was also a big factor in being happy or miserable. Us down here in the small towns may gripe about having to take care of big yards or wonder why it takes so long to drive from one of the county to another, but all of that apparently is much better than barely being able to squeeze between buildings and not knowing what fresh cut grass smells like.
The study did admit the findings should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, somebody who’s miserable in the big city might be just as unhappy with life on the rolling plains.
Because, of course, happiness is a very unique thing for each individual. What makes me happy might make you sad, or not even register at all on your radar. And more than likely, what makes you happy doesn’t have anything to do with where you live.
Sure, we’d all be happier living on a warm, year-around beach, but that seems to be a destination for very few of us. And if living on a warm beach doesn’t sound like total happiness to you, well, you obviously have deep emotional issues.
All things being equal, after a certain point you’re probably not going to leave where you are. When I was young I had dreams of being somewhere else, but living life in a known area was more comfortable than I wanted to admit. I guess it’s the same for most of you.
And you can travel, maybe even go overseas, but you eventually come back and soon it feels like you never left. But are you happy?