Small-town living has its upsides as well as its downfalls. It’s not for everybody; you either love it or you hate it. 

Me? I love it. I’m just a small-town girl, born and raised. The town where my parents lived when I was born — Tallapoosa, Georgia — was so small there wasn’t even a hospital. They had to go 30 minutes out of town just for me to be delivered. 

We lived on the outskirts of Tallapoosa until I was about 7 years old. You wouldn’t believe it now, but I was a country girl who ran around barefoot, caught frogs and tadpoles for fun and played in the dirt and the woods from sun up to sun down. Because we were in the country, we had to drive several miles to get to a grocery store, gas station or any other signs of civilization. But once you get into Tallapoosa, it’s a tiny town with a whole bunch of nothing to do.

When we moved to Union Springs, small-town life was bigger and better because we were in the actual town limits. We didn’t have to drive to go to the grocery store and we even had a McDonald’s. We still had to drive to Montgomery (45 miles) to go to a Walmart, see a movie or anything like that. Keep in mind the tiny town of U.S.A. has only a few red lights. It’s the epitome of a small town.

Union Springs, Alabama

Pictured in Main Street in Union Springs, Alabama.

Living in Alex City is a huge step up for me. When people tell me there’s nothing to do and nowhere to eat, I can’t help but think of where I came from. Come on, y’all. We’ve got red lights for days and a whole highway. To me, 280 has just about everything this small-town girl could dream of. Call me simple and easy to please, but it’s plenty for me.

I like to call Alex City big-city living in a small town. If you grew up in a small community like me, you know it’s true. We’ve got the best of both worlds in Alex City.

When you need something, whether it’s something to wear for a special occasion or a certain ingredient for a recipe, there’s somewhere in Alex City to get it. That’s something to be thankful for. While it’s nice to run up the road to Auburn and have more stores to choose from, we are not limited here in Alex City like a true small town is. In Tallapoosa or Union Springs, you didn’t choose to shop out of town; you had to. If I needed something to wear, the local Bargain Town or Dollar General were my only options.

I feel like I’m in a much bigger city living in AC but the reality is it’s still a small city. In comparison to where I’ve lived, what I like about Alex City is it has plenty to do and places to shop and eat but it still has that small-town vibe.

Now, not everything about a small town is hunky dory. 

Going to the grocery store can be dangerous. You’re gonna see at least one person you work with, two people you went to school with, a long-lost cousin you haven’t seen in years, a person you’ve been avoiding for months and probably an ex-lover. You have to play a serious game of hide and seek, creeping from one aisle to another trying to dodge these folks, but it’s unavoidable. Might as well brace yourself and get ready to ask how everybody’s Mama and ’em is doing.

Probably the worst part is when you’re getting ready to head out to run a few errands around town and you don’t get ready a bit. You’ve got on the rattiest T-shirt you own, a pair of dirty shorts from the laundry basket, haven’t showered yet and your hair is a wreck. You just know you won’t see anybody; it’s only a couple places, a few quick errands; you should be safe.

Nope.

There they are — everybody you never wanted to see. It seems like the worse you look, the more people you run into.

On the other hand, when you look like you’re about to accept a Grammy you don’t see a soul. 

Just the other week, I went to the Alexander City Farmers Market downtown and just knew I’d run into people I knew, looked cute as could be and didn’t run into one person I knew.

Life’s funny like that.

You can’t escape people you know in a small town but there are benefits to that. When I lived in Union Springs, I had to drive 45 minutes just to see my friends. In Alex City, I’ve got friends right up the road. They’re there for me when I need them whether it’s just to hang out or to help me with a crisis. 

Another thing I love about small-town living is the hospitality of people. When you walk in an establishment in Alex City, people greet you and they’re kind. People hold the door for you and strangers are polite.  

There’s just a feeling of being “at home” whenever you go anywhere around here. No one makes you feel like they’re better than you or too good for you. Everybody’s just flat-out nice. Not every community is like that.

I’ve never dreamed of living in a big city. I get anxiety driving in Birmingham or even Montgomery, get easily overwhelmed by too many choices of places to go and don’t need much more entertainment than what’s offered here in Alex City. 

While everybody might not be cut out for it, small-town living is definitely for me. I’m proud to live in the “big” small town of Alex City and love it more every day. Thank you to everybody who has welcomed me and confirmed Alex City is the place I want to be. 

Santana Wood is the assistant managing editor of The Outlook.