I’ve realized something about growing up in rural America. (Granted, I say that a lot…) My suburbanite friends talk about having their best friends since 5th grade, 7th grade, high school…that seems like a long time. When I say, “I’ve been friends with my best friend since kindergarten,” I get weird looks. That doesn’t happen in real life; that’s out of the movies.
No, it’s not some cinematic phenomenon. It’s a part of rural life. And the likelihood of that movie-style longstanding friendship is higher in small towns, for very real reasons.
You see, a lot of it has to do with school districts. When a group of students go throughout the same school system together from pre-K/kindergarten through 12th grade, they stay close. They stick together. From my perspective, you have a lot more of a streamlined school system. Most kids start off their pre-school careers together, and graduate together, from the same high school. Granted, there are exceptions like private schools and other unique situations.
What I’m referring to is the public school system of rural America as a generality.
In a larger town, the schools aren’t as simple. Many children will pass through multiple districts based on geographic location, size of the school, and population. Even if they stay in the same district, class size (both in the classroom and in terms of graduation numbers) are higher. Activities become more segmented. In a small school, the opportunities are afforded to everyone. The athletes are the FFA kids are the band geeks are the honor students are the Spanish Club are the theatre buffs. In a larger, more competitive school, those activities are harder to overlap. That means the crowd you spend time with will shift more dramatically.
Talking to a friend about this idea tonight, he agreed that there are many people he’s close with just because of 13 years together in the rural public school system. This system builds strong bonds. I have three best friends from back home. Two of them, Kourtney and Lineah, I have known since before I could write.
From left to right: Alyssa, Lineah, Kourtney, and myself. It was Kourtney’s 21st birthday in this picture, as evidenced by the tiara. Kourtney and Lineah are my two oldest friends.
Now, I’m not saying that “new friends” are bad. I’m not discounting the value of friends who are met later in life. That third best friend of mine? She’s pictured above. Her name is Alyssa. We didn’t meet until seventh grade, and she’s still incredibly special to me. I have new close friends, too, who I hadn’t met until college. New friends are not any better than old friends.
What I’m getting at is that I feel fortunate to have the friends I do, new and old. And I’m lucky to have the old friends I have, because rural America put me in a position to have those close bonds with people for so many years. How many 20-year-olds are lucky enough to say they’ve had the same best friend for over 15 years?
I know friendship is complicated, and I’m probably painting it in too much of a black-and-white image. There isn’t enough room for grays and colors and shades and vividness. I know. However, this blog post is hardly truth, so much as a slightly biased observation by a born-and-raised country girl. The rural lifestyle made me who I am, and who I am has pretty great friends, new and old alike.