I CONFESS……I DIDN’T DO IT!
Your mud map to surviving the move to a small town
The honks of the horns, sirens and that tick of the neighbour’s aircon seems extra loud as you toss and turn in a bed that no longer soothes the day’s dramas. Freedom is so close, a new start, a life better for the kids, a community not a neighbourhood, a friend not a neighbour, nature not noise….the good life?
This is you, you know it, and I can hear the slightly higher pitch in your voice as you tell your peers of the big move. The keys are in the door, and you just can’t stop that smile, or the involuntary shake of your hand. as you push open the door you release the breath that you have been holding since the decision was made.
Moving to the wide-open veranda you take that well publicised deep inhale of country air and exhaling like its the first day of the rest of your life…..take a good look around because you’re not there yet, now the hard work really begins. Dreams are dreams for a reason; they have no unexpected human variants, no emotional disruptions, no miscommunication and no mistakes.
A small community is a living entity on its own, with a backbone (the original locals), a heart(the community groups) a soul (its history) and a passion (progress and its evolution)that flows through its veins. The general town folk are it’s white and red blood cells through which a town is strengthened or weekend for which there are many contributing factors.
I use to think of gossip as a virus that spreads from one person to another. However, a virus can affect everyone and is none specific. So I have upgraded it to a towns cancer, as it slowly eats away in the background, usually unknown to its victim and tends to be very selective. Not trying to trivialise the actual disease, more to emphasise the severity that gossip can have on individuals and groups alike.
It can all start from a simple misunderstanding with the wrong person, a person that knows everyone and all of a sudden it goes from “it is probably that person” to it must have been that person” to “it was that person”. Moreover, then there is nothing you can say to change it because anything that has gone wrong is now your doing…..and you cannot correct everyone, and even if you could no one wants to admit they were wrong…..or they have built up so much angst towards you the truth is now irrelevant. Then do not be surprised when you meet people that appear to hate you even if they have never met you…..like rocking up with your kids leading up to Christmas, to deliver cookies to one of the neighbours you have not had a chance to meet yet. Only to find her physically shaking with rage towards you, over things that you have never done! Once you are at this stage it doesn’t matter what you do or say. Even merely using the term clown you will receive verbal abuse with swear words Fowler than you can imagine…..but of course, you are the one in the wrong….so why help at all……because they needed it.
So don’t correct them when they do a shitty job. Let their dog attack yours on your own property. Let all the strangers wander onto your property without permission to take photos of that rare bird, even if your young child is playing in the yard. Make sure you register your tractor to mow the council strip even if no one else has to. Do definitely support local business, but never complain when they just don’t rock up for no apparent reason…..the point is that in the first few months (if not the whole year) you need to be the shop owner and the customer is always right, no matter the situation.
And the Biggy ?….never blindly offer help to the most established and ingrained organisation in the community. No matter how good your intentions, It’s not that they don’t like help, it’s a protect and honour kind of defence. It is like you are saying something is wrong with what they are doing or have been doing. Change is like a slap in the face of the ways of old even if it is obviously needed. What does it say about their years of hard work if it can be dismissed so easily? It would be like ripping part of your heart out and expecting you to go on. Because that’s what is beautiful about a small town, it becomes a part of you….an extension of you if I may, that lives, breathes and grows. It can cradle you, it can nurture you, it can test you and even punish you.
So, the first thing you need to know……you will never be a local for around 30 years so just put that idea out of your mind. You must use a “this is their town” approach to everything you do and say for at least the first five years. The time served can be shortened depending on how you go with implementing the following tactics:
- Hi, my name is Tioni, and this is princess, golden boy and Prince Charles/Charming. Introduce yourself to only the immediate neighbours as soon as possible, with your utmost best foot forward. Rehears and google them before you go so you don’t risk any involuntary religious, dietary or political slip-ups. Minimal introductions allow the said neighbour the gloating, puff your chest, “I’ve met the new neighbours “ bragging rights. And they will spread “the oh their so lovely” vibe from the start. Because meeting someone that everyone wants to know (because at times there is not much entertainment in a small town) is much better than someone no one wants to know …..be warned though…. if you leave it too long before you know it you will grow something out the side of your head.
- Next, now this is very important……only whisper when outside and heaven to Betsy no, absolutely no farting. Don’t let the chickens cluck, the cow’s moo, the ducks quack and oh my gooood never let the dogs bark. In fact, I would leave the dogs at a friend’s house, not worth the risk to be that neighbour…. at least for the first year. Enough time for them to get comfortable with your farts’
- Now you need to meet as many people in the community as you can in the shortest time frame or at least before they discover how much you really hate the colour green. So, in other words, join every club, committee and gathering in town, after all, the more you volunteer the nicer you must be, right! Buying takeaway is supporting local businesses and as long as you have enough sets of school uniforms you can go a good couple of weeks without washing, but whatever you do, do not share your opinions…..nod and smile, nod and smile
- Ok so now you need to work on your social status and we all know the best way to do that is to climb over the weakest links. People like people, that people like…I know right! So how do you do that when you are new to town and don’t know anyone well enough for them to claim you as a friend. Easy, find all the loners in town and invite them all to as many social events possible. Instant leader of a posse of friends. After about a year you should have enough of a group to be able to start selecting your favourites and slowly begin to drop the rest. Slowly stop inviting the ones that aren’t serving a purpose, you know, not quite cool enough, too old, too boring or threaten your crown. And if you do it subtle enough, or over a long enough time they may not even care
- Stay away from Facebook…..actually, follow every thread to know ahead what’s going on, to know who to side with but never….I mean never comment, especially with an opinion. For some reason, there is always a handful who just don’t know how to have a discussion without flinging personal insults and that will just leave you thoroughly drained and disheartened.
- If you have survived the 5 years without sharing an opinion you are on the home stretch and have earned the right not to say anything publicly, but individually, share an idea. And if you can manage to win over enough people (making sure there are some true locals amongst them) you may have permission to speak to a group.
You see a town has history, and a lot of its history is held in its people. People who are so ingrained into the community that they don’t know any other way or see the need for another way. They need to be guided/pursued in such a way that it appears as their idea….otherwise everything they have done to date seems mute, and their worth lessened. It’s not a crown that they strive to stay hold of, but a proven purpose. And without a purpose we are nothing.
Of course, you can always do the complete opposite, life is really too short to tiptoe…..and quite frankly, all those that turn away from you are probably not worth the energy anyway. As for the Sense and sensibilities…..if the original locals have been around that long they should truly grasp that life is too short as well as be intelligent enough to know when the baton needs to be passed.
Be bold, be brave and live your life to the fullest!