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Small and big places

How a large pond can feel not so small

October 30, 2021


There are two kinds of environments, small ones and big ones. People tend to prefer one over the other, but I’m personally not a fan of either of them. It’s hard to catch a breath when everyone knows each other, but with large places, you have the opposite problem where your presence goes unnoticed. You’re either jammed together or completely isolated. I’m not talking about physical size when I say small and big places, but social size. There are the big sprawling campuses of the world but on the opposite spectrum, there’s living like sardines in a can. Both of these situations can still be considered small or big places depending on the context.

When I came to college I didn’t know what to expect. Well, that’s a pretty broad statement, but more specifically I didn’t know how life in a large public university would be like. If two is a couple and three is a crowd, then eighteen thousand sleep-deprived undergrads is a sizeable army. I was afraid that I would fall through the cracks and lack a stable foundation. I was afraid that the constant stream of new faces would feel overwhelming. I think these were valid concerns to have at the time, but I’ve come to love the absurdly large environment I’m in.

Large v.s. small communities

The main disadvantage of tightly knit communities is that they are relatively static groups. There aren’t sudden influxes of people that can spice things up, and to my dismay, it’s not very easy to slip out them. I’m the kind of person who likes to have one hand in my pocket and the other on the escape hatch ready to jump ship. It’s more of a “break glass in case of emergency” situation rather than commitment issues. If I see that a quick stop for ice cream is morphing into a three hour escapade, I avoid it like the plague if I’m not in the mood. As said by this very out of context, unattributed quote, “the man that sleeps with a machete is a fool every night except one”.

Big places are what you make of them. When you want to be with a large group of people, great! You have that option. The same goes for when you want to spend time with a smaller group of close friends. I like being able to transition between groups based on my mood and energy, and for more introverted individuals like myself, it’s an absolute godsend. The whole issue of wanting to escape comes up a lot less often because you get to decide how and who you want to spend your time with.

Finally, there’s the added benefit of getting exposed to lots of new people. Ever since I started college, I feel a lot more confident talking to people I don’t know. At first I did it out of necessity and for survival, but then I realized it’s interesting to have a conversation with someone you’ve just met. In a big place, everyone is in the same boat as you, which makes everyone much more open than they would have been otherwise. And in the worst case scenario where everything goes wrong, on the bright side, you’ll probably never see that person again.

Interacting in a large environment is very low risk with very high reward. It brings the same value that a small environment has if you look in the right place. Really, small places are just subsets of big places, so why not explore in the big pond until you find a community that you like? It may seem intimidating, but I promise you it’s worth it.