It took me years to formulate the theory I'm about to present in the form of a blog post (surely the only publication willing to promote my theory). They were years of subconscious introspection and, at times, self-flagellation. The theory is about how one spends their time on this spinning globe, whether by specialization or diversification, and why I chose the latter.
I grew up near a teeny-tiny town, but went to school in Rugby, North Dakota, a town of about 2,500 people (also a tiny town by many people's standards). There was a remarkable range of activities for children there, despite its size and relative isolation. The thing is -- and this is the core of my theory -- if people hadn't participated in several of those options, there was no way they could have been offered. There wouldn't have been enough people to form a basketball team, or a trombone player in the band, or extras in the school plays, or competitors for the debate team, or exhibits at the science fair, or members for Girl and Boy Scout troops, or dozens of other roles.
Diversification wasn't just for kids and the grown-ups in their lives. Over the years, I saw farmers try (and sometimes succeed at) generating revenue by raising ostriches and bison for meat, angora goats for mohair and to keep the leafy spurge at bay, and producing wine from juneberries. Even mainstream crops like wheat, sunflowers, and soybeans each require different equipment, inputs, and storage.
On any given night of the week, my parents had meetings for the volunteer fire department, parish council, township board, community concert series, or Sons of Norway, to name a few. One day they might be collecting money from lefse sales, another day battling a rural grass fire, and yet another day serving as an election judge. Dad built birdhouses and ordered an atlatl, mom raised bees and took photography classes. Boredom was not an option. In fact, the word was effectively banned from usage.
At first glance, this may appear to be vapid dilettantism. At second glance, I wonder if it is the very reason that 17% of the U.S. population can survive and thrive in rural America. And if this kind of approach is the mark of a small town, then you really can't take the small town out of the girl.