When I moved from MRU to almost-MRU, I also did some major changes in lifestyle. I have always lived in Big Cities. Cities whose name everyone knows, and not because they are a suburb where something horrible happened. Often it was a "we" living, and compromises were made for schools and access to other important things. I've also lived in the bush in Southeast Asia during the field work phase of my existence, which is another set of stories altogether. But until now, I've never lived in a small town.
When I got here I lived briefly in one small town, very close to my uni, in a house that a grad student had bought and not yet sold after she moved on to her postdoc elsewhere. It was depressing, a dark house, small and cold. The town was very white and cis-hetero. I couldn't connect with neighbors. And, I imagine that part was me and the slide down from the euphoria of change.
I moved again, to a nearby, but even smaller town. It is a college town, with the local state university (which will make it decidedly NOT a small town in some people's book), but not the med school where I work. It is nowhere near the size of someplace like Ann Arbor, but to me, used to living in the middle of the city, in a 13' wide rowhouse, where you can drive around looking for a parking place for 30 minutes this place is SmallTownAmerica. Its still very white, but there is a crunchy aura of greying hippies and diligent Gen-X-ers raising their children to be good people. There is lots of parking, except when Leon Redbone plays the local stage.
In the past I/we never could afford to live in the either chique or cutting edge parts of time. But there was always a more fringy-place, inevitably more diverse, where couples of all sorts were welcome and you could walk the streets holding hands with someone of a different race or of the same gender and not get hassled. The new small town is sorta-kinda that (the first one was not). I have a hangout that is a jazz/wine bar, staffed by the arts students from Local U. Many are GLBT, and I love them to pieces, although its weird to be their Aunt (I refuse to be their Mom). Weird because they are so young, and so vulnerable and yet so much stronger and open and proud than I was at their age.
One of the things I love most is my new apartment. Its in a renovated old hotel. I'm on the fifth floor, with lots of original windows (I can see all of the tiny downtown). I have hung all my art from various stages of my wandering life. I have my music. My science is going well. My once nascent, but still small, lab is kicking butt.
At SfN I saw many (former?) colleagues from the old MRU. Mostly Very Important Gen-X-ers, poised to take over the world. They are the ones who survived the reign of terror of the Chair from Hell. I am glad for them. But I am more glad for me.