I am an accidental suburban girl. I have always lived in the suburbs of some metro area, except of course for the time I spent in New Brunswick, NJ at college. The funny thing is that I have always longed for the noise and convenience of city life. Growing up in Brick, NJ suburban sprawl reigned! We had to drive everywhere and I never liked that. I longed to live somewhere where there were sidewalks so I could walk to places like they did on t.v.
While our kids were really little we lived in two small beach towns, giving me a little taste of urban life. The first one we lived in was Ocean Grove. It was a charming Victorian town where the homes were painted crazy colors and there were many residents who were in halfway houses and made life interesting. I loved that town. We could walk to the bank, the market, the restaurants and of course the beach and boardwalk. The other was Point Pleasant, NJ. That might forever be my favorite place that I have ever lived (and we have moved a lot. We left only because of a house fire, but that is a whole other post). What I found most alluring was the downtown strip and the ability to walk my little collapsible cart to the grocery store, get all my stuff, and walk home again. We’d walk to parks, ice cream stores, coffee shops. There was little we ever needed to leave the island for (maybe it was a peninsula-either way, you had to cross a bridge to get out).
As a grown up I have spent more time traveling and seeing more rural places, and these too draw me in. I love the openness of country life. Big open skies with little more to see than the horizon. I love feeling separate from the chaos of the world and all its gadgets, feeling like there is room for the kids to run and play and explore and imagine. Knowing that it doesn’t matter what I look like that day because chances are I won’t see many people anyway. The country gives me this feeling like I can pause and breathe deeply.
It’s just very funny to me that I have always lived in the burbs, and with great dissatisfaction I might add. Even where I live now it is the same. In the summer we make a point of riding our bikes to the Dairy Queen (blech), but making a meaningful trip to the grocery store is not possible. It’s a little far, but more of a problem is that there is really no safe and convenient route from where I live to the store that does not require me risking my personal safety. Plus, life in the burbs is not built around people walking places, everyone is in their cars. So, even if I could get there, the charm of greeting people along the way who are also living out their lives on foot isn’t there. And yet, when I get home from my car trip to the grocery store, I don’t get to go outside and enjoy the quiet peace and solitude of country living either. The neighbors are right on top of me with their leaf blowers, snow blowers, power tools, etc. going.
This all leaves me with quite a conundrum when it comes to planning our next (and hopefully last) move. Although I have never liked the burbs, I have never known anything else and I think I am afraid to try something new. I dream of living in the country or going really crazy and moving into some crowded downtown place, but I don’t know if I can do it. Maybe I am afraid I won’t like it or that it won’t be what I have imagined. At least with the suburbs I know what to expect, I know how to identify with them. They are the safe choice, neither here nor there, and I have kind of gotten used to this life in between.