In Defense of the Suburbs

In the last year, I feel as if I’ve met a record number of people who want to leave the city. Some talk about retiring young in South America, others want to make new lives for themselves in Europe.  The reasons are the same. It’s boring here. Our way of living is backwards. We work too much. I’ll admit that I’ve certainly had these thoughts cross my own mind in the past.  As a matter of fact, I recently watched The Talented Mr. Ripley for the first time (yes, I’m twenty-two years late) and I found myself admiring the picturesque Italian landscape, wondering what it would be like to live there like the characters in the film did.

But, while driving around the city not too long after watching the movie, I found myself feeling a quick surge of something when I stopped at a red light.  As I scanned the area, I thought about all the times I had come to a nearby plaza with my mother growing up. I thought about the early mornings when my father took me to an empty parking lot, so he could let me practice driving before I had a license to my name. As I looked at the dingy bus stop on the corner, I recalled the stop a couple of blocks from my old high school – where I would join a friend who lit up her smokes in between classes because she knew that no teachers would walk by it.  I remembered the park across the street from that same stop where my friends would join me on the swings even though we were sixteen and wearing very uncomfortable Catholic school uniforms that left little to the imagination for anyone passing by. I was flooded with all kinds of memories of neighbours, classmates, teachers, friends, and loved ones.

The pondering made me feel like living in a postcard was maybe a bit overrated. And it made me recognize the value in appreciating the current moment. While we may not have an abundance of serene landscapes in the suburbs and we don’t have the laidback approach to workdays that the Europeans seem to, we do still have it “good” here. We have access to healthcare here, which is not a perfect system, but one that many people are literally dying to have.  We have an education system that does not discriminate against sex or race. And those of us who are admittedly in the more privileged groups of society have access to a bunch of luxuries on just about every corner.  And beyond all of that, there is so much community around – even if you don’t always feel it, good people are all over.

So, where does this cabin fever come from? When did it become trendy to hate your place of residence and see greener pastures across a border? Not too long ago, people had no choice but to stayu put – or embark on lengthy, expensive, and risky journeys to try and move if their circumstances were dire. Yet, somehow, we’ve just decided that now, we should make those same moves because the luxuries of one developed nation do not appear as desirable as the pleasantries of another. Such an outlook is obviously a personal one – and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with wanting to make that move happen, I suppose.  But, for argument’s sake, what if the move never happens? What if you spend your whole life wishing to be somewhere else instead of appreciating where you are right now? Is that how you would want to spend your life? Take a look around – even if you’ve seen your environment a billion times and feel bored of it sometimes, I bet there’s something to appreciate and savour.