New Hampshire, the Granite State, was my home for eighteen years. I grew up there and learned how to live there until the day I moved out for college. I now live in an apartment somewhere off campus, and visit home infrequently for holidays and the occasional weekend.
The decision to go to school out of state seemed like a necessity at the time. Granted, I would have saved money had I stayed in-state, but the prospect of staying in the same place for another consecutive year made my skin crawl. It was a natural process for me. I was going to be accumulating debt anyhow, I thought I may as well do it in a place I found interesting.
My mother and sister would always sigh “ooh, college,” in a nasal tone, emulating Rhea Pearlman in “Matilda” as best they could, whenever the topic of moving came up. We put all my things in boxes and divided them between storage and my new home. Next thing I knew, a year had passed living in Massachusetts. All things considered, I love it here. Although, I never pictured myself living in a city, and there are certainly things I miss back home in New Hampshire. The stars, for one thing, are so much more clear up north.
It feels a bit silly comparing Massachusetts and New Hampshire sometimes. After all, they are similar in many ways. The accents are marginally different. We still have the typical “New England accent” in New Hampshire—a boisterous and robust tone, often gravely and loose with pronunciation—though the Boston accent is decidedly absent from my area. Overall, it shouldn’t feel that different. New England is New England, and the three states I’ve spent the most time in: New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts are not all that different from each other. Except they are different. In seemingly undetectable and insignificant ways, these areas are so different from one another.
According to the United States Census Bureau’s website, the population estimate as of July 1, 2022 is 1,395,231 people for New Hampshire, while Maine has a population of 1,385,340 and Massachusetts holds a whopping 6,981,974 residents (1). Many of these people, I’m sure, live in the city. This itself provides a huge difference. There’s the idea that everyone in a small town knows each other, and while I don’t know a lot of my neighbors by name, there are a large number of people from my town that I recognize. You see the same people in school board meetings, in your local stores, at the laundromat or walking their dogs all the time. You pick up faces, and I think communities are often closer. I do recognize people here, but I feel that because you see such a large number of people in Boston, it is more difficult.
The volume of people also impacts something as simple as walking around my neighborhood. At home, people you know give a little honk from their car to say hi, paired with a wave out of their window. It’s common to ask strangers how they’re doing as you pass each other, and oftentimes you pick up full conversations on a walk. Here, people beep mainly at other cars and mainly from frustration. It seems to me sometimes that the rural nature of New Hampshire allows for closer communities.
However, based on my own experiences, I’ve never felt as included in New Hampshire as I do here. I think it’s easier to feel like there are people around you in the city; like you’re not alone. A study done by the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota found that while rural residents had more social relationships in general than metropolitan residents, people who lived in rural areas were also more likely to say they felt left out (2). I’m sure some people find being surrounded by strangers isolating in itself, but being in a crowd helped me feel seen after so long feeling like there was nobody around me. I also feel like the relationships I have are more valuable. If you’re “friends” with everybody, your genuine friends blend in with people you do not spend as much time with. I think proper classification of people is valuable. You can recognize someone as an acquaintance, classmate or coworker rather than your friend. I didn’t think that way before. Granted, that may be a personal issue, but moving to the city has helped me in figuring out who my true friends are. I may miss the trees, the stars and the quiet but I think the city is the closest thing to home I’ve found.
United States Census Bureau. (1 July, 2022). Vermont; Rhode Island; New Hampshire; Maine; Massachusetts; Connecticut. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/VT,RI,NH,ME,MA,CT/PST045222
Plain, Charlie. (25 January, 2019) Rates of Social Isolation Vary by Rurality and Demographics. University of Minnesota. https://www.sph.umn.edu/news/rates-of-social-isolation-vary-by-rurality-and-demographics/#:~:text=A%20new%20School%20of%20Public,social%20relationships%20than%20urban%20residents