The Urban Dictionary defines townie as someone who has lived in a small town for his or her entire life.
I just — as in almost three months ago — graduated from K-State, and in all my years of schooling, I was always told never to open an essay with a definition. But now that I’m a professional writer, I can (sort of) break the rules and do things like open my writing with clichés and start my sentences with the word “but,” at least until my editor tells me to knock it off.
Now that I’m not in college, it’s a relief but also somewhat disconcerting that I don’t always have to deal with grades and extracurriculars lingering over my head. I thrived on that sort of pressure, and even now, I put myself into high-pressure situations, like procrastinating on writing this column until the day it was due.
In any case, I still live much like a student. I eat cans of Spaghetti-O’s for lunch and when I go home, my mom helps me with my laundry. I carry my laptop and other reporting tools in a school backpack, and when I forgot that backpack at my parents’ home in Emporia last weekend, they were ready to drive it up to me in time for work. I rely on my laptop for most of my work, but I decided to suck it up for a couple of days until I could go pick it up myself.
But I’m not a student anymore. It feels strange to say that, especially when that was my identity for so long. I have to remind myself of that often, even if I still try to pull off student discounts when I can.
Does that mean I’m a townie now? Despite that Urban Dictionary definition, I think it’s hard to conjure up an exact definition of what a townie is. Some might say townies are the people who were born here, or at least spent their childhoods in Manhattan. Others might say you’re a townie when you can get anywhere in town without GPS navigation. I think just living here permanently is too broad of a definition, but maybe you know you’re a townie when you start complaining that property taxes are too high.
I fail on all those fronts. I also fail at being a townie since I technically don’t even live within Manhattan city limits. I’m over in Pott County, but the mailman still delivers all of my mail with Manhattan in the address.
Here in Manhattan — with such a transient population of K-State students and Fort Riley families, and even commuting workers from outlying towns — I don’t think the word townie carries too much of a specific meaning.
Manhattan, for all of its small-town charm and friendly folks, is a global city. Its citizens go off to do great things across the world, and professionals, experts and even presidents from all over the world converge on the Little Apple.
In a town with so much global opportunity, it’s a wonder that so many people choose to stay here, but the fact of the matter is that they do. Whatever their reasons for being here in the first place, they find something of value to keep them in town, and even former residents I’ve met speak romantically of their time in Manhattan.
So am I a townie? I don’t think so, at least not yet. Maybe that will come with time, or maybe it will come when I remember to stop having my packages delivered to my parents’ home in Emporia. But starting this job as education reporter at The Mercury, is a decision to stay, and maybe one day I’ll be a townie.