“Imperfections are beautiful.” – Lady Gaga
Denver is no New York or Los Angeles, but it isn’t a Fort Collins, either. I was born downtown, but I grew up in Englewood, the first suburb south of the capital. Englewood is too small to be a city, but too big to be a town. Since I went to school in Littleton, and my friends lived as far away as Aurora, I felt connected to the area without feeling like the area was connected to me – it wasn’t that a reputation preceded me everywhere I went, but it’s not like I was unfamiliar with my surroundings, either.
Northern Colorado is strikingly different from farther down south. The South Metropolitan Area of Denver is home to a diverse immigrant population, but Northern Colorado is a little bit more… Rural.
Politically, Colorado is a purple state to begin with. We’ll legalize marijuana, but, after Arapahoe, Aurora, and Columbine, we’ll buy more guns, whereas a state like Connecticut will entertain gun control legislation after Newtown (personally, I’m not saying one thing or the other about either of these controversies).
Nowhere is that more apparent than in Fort Collins. By nature, college students tend to be more liberal, but, off-campus, most of the people who are actually from Fort Collins, are descended from cowboys and ranchers, so they like their guns; from business owners, so they enjoy their Reaganomics; from mountainfolk, so they grow out their beards and guzzle their beers and drive pickup trucks.
Denver has nightclubs. Fort Collins has bars. Denver has skyscrapers. Fort Collins has Old Town. Historically, I’m a suburbanite, but, at heart, I’m an urbanite. I would rather take a vacation in the lights and noise of Las Vegas than in the cold and silence of a cabin. A night out for me is a concert at the Pepsi Center, not a house party.
There’s a reason Main Street in Disneyland was modeled after Old Town – it’s as picture perfect as a postcard: family-owned shops, neighbors safely walking around at all hours of the day and night, muted pastels and no mouth left unsmiling. In the background are the mountains, which people travel from far and away just to see. Everybody has a college education. Everybody’s successful. Everybody’s happy, and, when you’re not, it’s as though something is horribly wrong with you.
Call it paradise sickness, call it homesickness, label it whatever you please, but I plan on leaving Fort Collins right away when I graduate, for Denver, for New York, for Los Angeles…
I like having to lock my doors at night. I like having to leave my porch light on. Genetically, the odds are never in my favor – I had an unhappy childhood under parents who were, themselves, unhappy. Sometimes, a good day isn’t enough for me to be in a good mood. It’s much harder for me to tell myself to be grateful for what I have when everyone else around me has the same thing I do – a life in Fort Collins – and I’m the only one feeling anything other than ecstatic about it. I get along better with survivors than with victims – people who’ve had to overcome much worse than anything I could ever say to them, versus people who’ll launch a crusade against me because I refuse to get down on my hands and knees and kiss the ground they walk on.
Don’t misread me – Fort Collins has been good for me. It’s taught me that I can’t be satisfied with myself unless I’m constantly distracted through a fast-paced, city lifestyle. I’ve learned more about myself here than anywhere, because it's so peaceful. Diversity isn’t exclusive to the socially oppressed – experiencing Northern Colorado as a Denverite is just as important as experiencing Denver as a Northern Coloradan.
Thank you for reading. Fort Collins is perfect for people who like perfect things – but, I am a journalist, after all, a writer, a storyteller, and no story is good without a good conflict.
Paws up, and go Rams.
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