Five years ago (almost to the day!), I moved from a busy, suburban town in the Twin Cities area to a sleepy, tiny town in rural Minnesota. My reality changed drastically. It was both difficult and wonderful, and I sure have learned a lot over these past five years! Here’s how the journey began:
Immediately after graduation, I accepted a teaching position in my then-fiance’s hometown school district. (We planned on staying in the area after marrying, since family farmland is hard to pick up and move with!) I was a bright-eyed 22-year-old, with a still-warm college diploma, a head full of ideas for my 3rd grade classroom, a car full of my college apartment essentials, and a March wedding to plan. I moved alone into the house we’re still currently living in (I lived there for 7 months before Bjorn and I got married and he moved in). Needless to say, there were a lot of changes going on in my life, and a lot that I’d have to get used to.
What I’m about to describe in the next paragraph makes me roll my eyes at myself a little. It’s funny how in retrospect, these things don’t feel like as big of a deal as they did back then…but, again, that was my reality and my perspective as I settled into my new life.
Instead of a Starbucks two minutes away, a Target a mile up the road, and malls and countless options for outings (and the many college friends/roommates down the hall to chat with), I abruptly found myself in a situation that didn’t allow that kind of lifestyle. I could no longer sit anonymously at a coffee shop to blog or to study (something I’d grown so fond of!). My only place to shop for things like makeup and toiletries was a small Walmart 15 minutes away (which has since closed, making the closest Walmart a 35 minute drive away). The town I moved to had only 600 people in it, virtually no stores (a post office + a bank were about it), and it was surrounded for miles on each side by fields. The nearest town 15 minutes up the road had a population of 3,000. The town of 3,000 only had several restaurants. Larger errands and outings were reserved for a town of 11,000 if you drove 35 minutes, or headed an hour away to a college town. If this wasn’t small-town living, I don’t know what was!
Let me back up and say that I’ve never been a true “city person.” I’m not obsessed with all the busyness, noise, and action. In fact, I’ve always entertained the idea of living in a more rural area. So I was definitely still excited! …Until the initial shininess of the move wore off. I was met with the reality of living alone (I hate being home alone at night) after living with 6 other girls in my college apartment. I didn’t have a clothes dryer, a dishwasher, a television, or girl friends in the area. It was a long, lonely, extremely stressful first year as a new teacher (and the only 3rd grade teacher at my particular elementary school), mixed with intense wedding planning. A lot of my college friends and I got out of touch. Add to that a drawn-out Minnesota winter, and you can see how I was slowly getting worn down and discouraged.
Luckily, I had Bjorn. I had family. I had a couple longtime friends that stuck with me. Bjorn and I spent time together. And wedding planning, albeit overwhelming, was still quite fun. We had a lot of happy anticipation going on. My future in-laws lived only minutes up the road, and I loved them dearly. We all enjoyed hanging out and getting to know each other even better…and they became a big part of my friend circle! And my own parents were only two hours away. What a blessing it was (and still is) to have family nearby! However, it was still a significant life change for me to move here. I had a lot of learning and reteaching myself to do! The perspective shift was slowly, steadily seeping into my everyday life.
I learned that I don’t need to be sitting at a coffee shop to be productive.
I learned how rewarding it is to establish simple, sustainable home routines.
I learned that date nights in are just as great as the “fancy” dates that others go on.
I learned to be okay with longer drives to get to what I want. I learned to “settle in” when we drove somewhere further away, opening up the door for great car conversations or music, without the stresses of traffic.
I learned to focus on the people in front of me, not the hustle and bustle of constant exciting outings.
I learned to save money because I wasn’t as tempted to spend it while we were out and about.
I learned to be okay with not being as anonymous anymore. I learned that it’s okay for people in the community to know your story. I learned that while some people seemed downright nosy, oftentimes, them knowing and asking about us meant they cared.
I learned about crops, and planting, and harvesting. I learned some basic farm chores. I bought my first pair of work boots. I learned what “doing chores” meant on a farm versus in a suburban life.
And I learned that the sunsets here are pretty spectacular and glorious.
Slower living, to me, means having a “take a deeper breath” approach to life – noticing the small joys, relishing routines and meaningful tasks, and focusing on relationships. And I’m so glad this approach has become more and more important to me over time!
March 2014 came, and Bjorn and I were married on a sunny, winter day. We had only a little time to establish our home as a place for the two of us before June came; and with the end of the school year came a summer of army training that whisked us away to Virginia. Eventually, that fall, we settled back in here in our tiny town in Minnesota – this time, without any big travels on the horizon. It was truly time for me to get to know this area, and to find my comfort in being here, not in going and doing.
It took time, but I became quite okay with the idea of being here permanently and following these different rhythms of life. Then I grew comfortable here. And after being comfortable here, I became actually content and happy. I worked and worked with myself mentally, reteaching myself what it meant to enjoy a slower-paced community, or to spend time with family, or to establish good routines. As I cared more and more, I fell in love with the home we’re in and the community we’re a part of. I fell in love with the different pace of life here. There are definitely times when I’m still frustrated by various inconveniences of living in a tiny community, but I’m mostly so content and thankful to be living here.
The journey to a slower life took intention. I don’t believe that being okay with a slower life happens instantly, or just because you’re thrown into a certain situation. It takes patience, time, and intentionality, but it is so worth it once that attitude shift happens.
Living more slowly has altered my overall attitude about life. My perspective is a bit different now, compared to 22-year-old me. Eventually, we did get a clothes dryer 3.5 years into marriage, but even hanging clothes to dry over the years taught me a lot. We still don’t have a dishwasher or a television, and we’re totally fine living like this! I think it’s been good for me. Some more sharp or impatient aspects of my personality have been softened a bit. I’ve noticed this even when I’m traveling away from home nowdays. I have a more peaceful approach to life, and it’s comforting and encouraging to me to notice this. I’m grateful for how God has used my journey to slower living to make me feel even more like myself over the years.
But guess what? Here’s the awesome thing: Slower living can happen anywhere! In any circumstance. Even in busy seasons of life, even if you do live in a larger city or busier place. If you’re intentional about living slower, you can infuse that mentality into various aspects of your daily life.
Have you found yourself in situations that encourage slower living? How do you like to slow down?