When a City Girl Moves to the Middle of Nowhere

Growing up in Denver, I felt like I had everything. There were always lots of things to do and endless opportunities to seek.  As a child, I had plenty of parks, rec centers, and kid-friendly events. Every summer we went camping in the Colorado mountains,  and I was lucky enough to witness some of the most stunning views in the country. When I got older I never had much trouble finding a job. There were plenty of bars to check out on my 21st birthday, and any band I ever wanted to see always came through Denver. It never crossed my mind that people in other towns struggled to find jobs, or that they might have to travel to a bigger city to catch a concert.

Denver's population is over 700,000 and a couple million if you count surrounding counties.

I've traveled a lot but I never really considered moving to another town, bigger or smaller. When I finally did make the decision to move to a small town, I had no idea how life-changing it would be. In my mind, it was more of a long-term vacation. But after a few years in a drastically smaller town, I'm not sure if I'll ever want to go back to big city life. Somehow, in this tiny town in the middle of nowhere; I met my husband, I found a group of friends I'll never forget, I made some of my best art, and I grew to love a whole new way of life.

When I was 21, I was interning at the church I grew up in with close friends I've known most of my life. The pastor we were interning under was offered a job in Kansas and invited us to come with him and continue ministry together. I remember us all looking up information about the town. We went to the Parsons KS website and had a good laugh at their welcome video. We were genuinely confused that their big selling point was having parks and schools...don't all towns? Their downtown was nothing like the skyscrapers I grew up with. It was just two quaint little blocks of local shops. Parsons seemed nice, but not anywhere I'd uproot my life for.

Parsons' population is just shy of 10,000. If you're from Colorado, that's about the capacity of Red Rocks Amphitheater. 

A few of the guys went out right away, but I was very certain I wouldn't be joining them. I had my whole life in Denver. I was in college, I was building a good following with my poetry, and I was very committed to chasing after a guy who had no desire to commit to me...how could I leave all THAT? Well eventually my friend Carlee and I missed all the friends that moved away and we decided to join them and give the small-town life a try. An older couple from the church graciously offered to let us live with them, though they had never even met us. Hospitality was very different in a small town compared to what I was used to. Who lets two strangers live with them for free? This sweet couple was Larry and Wanda and I consider them my Kansas grandparents. They absolutely changed my life and showed me so much love and kindness during some of the hardest and most beautiful years of my life.

I immediately had trouble finding a job and quickly realized it was because I had tattoos. I was used to a lot of employers having policies about tattoos, but it had never been an issue the way it was in Parsons. I was also not too pleased that there wasn't a single coffee shop in town. We drove 30 minutes to the next town a few times a week to find a Starbucks. It was definitely an adjustment, but you'd be surprised how quickly you get used to it, and even more surprised how quickly you can get overwhelmed in a bigger city when you no longer spend every day in one. "Traffic" in Parsons was three cars at the four-way stop. It was lovely.

Photo by Samuel Lee

A few years into living there, we opened a non-profit cafe with the church. Remnant Cafe became a huge part of my life in Parsons and a valued meeting place for our community. We started having live music and poetry readings. We hosted parties and bridal showers. I could always go there and run into a friend and feel at home. I also met my husband during our grand opening. My husband is from a town of 2,000 people, so we had very different experiences growing up. He never had pizza delivered until college! When I asked him why, he said: "The town is so small, why would you have anything delivered when you could just go get it much faster?" His hometown of Caney has no stoplights, and he had to drive to another town to get groceries. I also still cannot believe what different opinions we have on "good camping." I was pretty spoiled with those Colorado mountains...

Photo by Samuel Lee

My favorite, and least favorite thing about Parsons, was that there was never much to do. This was sometimes frustrating, but it also meant we had to make our own fun. We were always at each other's houses spending the day together and cooking for one another. We would throw themed parties and have movie nights. We would drive hours for sushi or concerts. And if there was ever was something happening in town, it was a big deal and we made sure to get involved. I remember a local business once hosted a simple party where they served wine and attendees brought books to trade with one another. A pretty common event, but it was so special to us because our town wasn't overwhelmed with 10 events a day. We also got involved with events in other towns all the time. One town has a great summer festival, another has a big Halloween event called "Neewollah." There's always something to do, you just have to look for it and get creative.

I now live in Fort Wayne Indiana which is somewhere in the middle of Denver and Parsons in terms of size. It's definitely not a major city, but it also lacks the same small-town charm of Parsons. If I had to try to really explain to you why I would choose a small town over a big city, it is hands down the feeling of community. Even with the best intentions, it is just hard to stay involved in your friend's lives while in a very populated area. Traffic is time-consuming, events are more crowded, and the higher cost of living can put a strain on your personal life. In Parsons, I really learned the value of being deeply involved in your community, and truly connected to your group of friends.

I still visit Colorado often, and it will always have a special place in my heart because it is where I grew up. But somehow, the little town of Parsons changed me more than I ever would have imagined. I've traded my mountains for wheat fields, and although I miss the view, there's nothing quite like the simplicity of a slower pace of life.

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