In the middle of nowhere, having a social life takes some work. Not everyone has one. So let me share some things I’ve learned. City people, I figure you’re curious. Other rural people— let’s trade notes. What’s on your list?
Go to Everything
I lived in a big city for awhile. Seemed like everybody knew lots of people who were into the same stuff as them. Out in the sticks, it’s more likely that people are into their own ways of having fun. I appreciate that, actually. Getting into what other people like is fun.
And hey, there’s only so much going on, and only so many people doing it. I’m not better than anyone else, so I try not to turn down anyone’s invitation. Sometimes stuff is cool, sometimes it’s not, but you don’t know if you don’t go.
I’ve met a lot of people who go the opposite route – they’re busy judging everyone. You know what? They are miserable: sitting around lonely and bitter.
Instead of burning bridges, I try to be intentional about connecting with people. Get on their level – everybody’s got a different way of looking at things, and you never know what you’ll find.
Drugs and Alcohol
When I’m not drinking, it hurts my social life. Sad to say it, but it is the truth. The bar is one of the few social hubs. I go to the bar and order some food & club soda, just to see people. But when you give up drinking, it’s less fun to sit in the dark.
Weed is the same way – you might be surprised at just how many people smoke. It’s a good way to bond, and the nice thing is it’s totally ok to hang with smokers and not touch the stuff. I’ve got a good buddy who never, ever has.
Then there’s harder drugs. There’s a lot of really cool, really creative people who turn to them. Running with them is always an adventure. I’ve met a lot of people. But I can’t tell who is sketchy or not. People can’t tell if I am either. And I never knew what kind of situation I’d wind up in. Sometimes it’d be a lot of fun, and sometimes I’d fear for my safety.
Don’t Date in Town
I didn’t come up with this one, but it was forced on me… correctly. Small towns have enough drama. Things fracture worse after a bad breakup or when someone’s ex starts dating their friend. We all hate thinking, “We should go to that party! Oh, but one of us can’t go because her ex might be there.”
Make Your Own Fun
This is a hard and fast rule. We can’t count on fun things just happening. We’ve got to make sure they are. There’s so many opportunities all around to make things happen, as long as you appreciate them. You can’t just count on fun things happening around you. Make sure they are. There’s opportunities all around to make things happen. Appreciate that and you’ll be happy.
Need some inspiration? Have a fire and invite everyone. Go hike some place you haven’t been. Join a gunclub or go fish. Get out on the river. Check out the historical societies. Spend some time in a library. Off road. Get into some sports. Garden, can, make wine. Go spend a day in a town you haven’t spent much time in. Hit up carnivals, church bazaars, fire & ambulance company events.
BS like it’s an Art
I’m happy to say that I can stand and talk with just about anyone for 5 minutes. That’s how I meet people and catch up on news around town. It’s a good way to get to know people, and sometimes it’s just rude not to.
Really, you just say what’s on your mind. If you wanna see how it’s done- hang out with some old folks. They’re masters. But if you need something to run on, ask about family and health— those are always go-to’s. Ask about news. Definately, make sure to throw in all the one-liners you can think of. And if you really wanna get someone going, start asking about history or family trees.
Some people are hard to wind down once you get em going, though.
Don’t Take It Personally
We all give each other a hard time as a joke. You don’t gotta let it roll off – fire back and try to outdo your friends.
I think this is kinda universal to working-class areas. It was the same in the city.
Shit’s raw. We’ve all been through hard times, one way or another. We’re pent up from it, and we let it out through words like a couple of kids roughhousing. It makes us comfortable with each other.
Plus, you don’t much meet people by being polite. I’ve tried. Politeness, at least in rural PA, makes people uncomfortable – like you’re not being real, like there’s something you’re not saying.
Some people take it pretty far, I’ll admit. Like when “Hey, fuck you bud!” is a way to say hello.
Keep a Good Reputation
Life is short. Everybody’s struggling with something. So I decided I want to be the kind of person who’s trustworthy, reliable, fun, generous, empathetic, ready to help anybody out, ready to stand up for myself and others. I try to be that way with my friends, family, and even people I don’t like.
In a small area, your reputation precedes you. People will talk about the things you do and what kind of person you are.
Get Out for Awhile
Things get weird in small towns sometimes, and it’s great to have outside perspective.
I moved out of the area for a few years. I’m not the only one. A lot of people around me have left and come back for the better. It helped me grow and be who I wanted to be, instead of just following the reputation I made growing up.
When I’m feeling a little claustrophobic or uninspired, I take trips on the weekends. I stay connected to friends from other places and hype the good things about my area so people come and visit.