City life is fantastic… if you’re into that. I thought I was, but it turns out I was after something entirely different, shaded under media representation of what female success looks like.
I grew up on pretty heavy doses of Sex and the City, Gossip Girl, and ABC Family movies about small-town girls who move to the big city and proceed to kill it professionally. Consuming this much media devoted to convincing me that NYC was the place to be ensured that I spent the entirety of my teen years hating my hometown and wishing I were in le grande ville having whirlwind adventures with handsome boys who wear pea coats and have “a car”. “A car” meaning a Lincoln with a driver, not a shitty 1985 Mustang (that by all reasoning shouldn’t even function) and an inappropriately inflated ego to go with it.
Every suburban-bred girl reading this right now is going, “Ok, where are you going with this? Because yes. Duh, Devon. I’m going to NYC and getting the heck out of this crappy town with its crappy people and its crappy shopping options.”
Hear me out.
NYC and its equally overpopulated city friends such as Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, etc… are super duper awesome. They have these areas that literally sparkle, its patrons are dressed to the nines at all hours of the day, there’s always a Starbucks within a stones throw (aw yes!). But guess what, Carrie, you might not be able to afford to live there. You probably can’t even afford to go there because you’re working 90 hours a week in retail just to pay the rent, and on your rare days off you’re sending resumes and cover letters at a rate of 1 email/minute to companies who don’t even open those emails because the boss already knows 18 people she’s going to consider for the job, first.
Your New York, at least in the beginning, will be a part that doesn’t even look like the city. The buildings only reach three stories high and are surrounded by graffitied rock walls. Your New York is full of homeless people that hit you up for loose change at least five times a day, filling you with a lethal mixture of sadness, helplessness, guilt and judgement. Your New York is full of visible mental illness that will inevitably remind you of the lack of cure for schizophrenia. Your New York is so dirty you won’t even pick up your umbrella when you drop it on the street because it’s not even worth the infection you know you’ll get from it. Your New York is an eternal “Someday” while today is miserable.
Every time I’ve ever been in the city I really haven’t had that much fun unless I was there for fun. I commute to the city every day for a job that I love and I still hit a boiling point every morning in the hour between getting on the train and getting into my sacred Starbucks for that golden elixir that keeps me from committing a felony. Of course this is an exaggeration, but I still think some pretty nasty thoughts about the very important business men who think they deserve their train seat and half of mine in the morning. Seriously, if I could kill someone with my mind… I digress.
To my extreme surprise, my favorite time of the day is my drive between the train station and my front door. There are trees, lots of them, and it’s lovely. The air smells nice, I can see the sky, birds are always chirping, and in the winter the snow sparkles prettier than any glass building ever could. What I’ve learned in the past year of working in NYC and Philadelphia is that the suburbs and small towns are way underrated and big cities are so overrated I wish I could talk to the manager and demand my money back. City life isn’t what I wanted; I wanted success, which I misguidedly associated with city living.
The Pinterest pictures are lovely, though.
I should have been careful what I wished for because I am inescapably one with the landscape of the city, now. If my high school self could see me now she’d be so proud and excited to grow up.
There are parts of Philadelphia that I find lovely! But I find Alabama lovelier. I prefer to be surrounded by trees and flowers and gazebos, and frankly this is a surprise to me. I love going to the city for particular reasons, but I don’t find fulfillment in being in the hustle and bustle. After a day, I can’t wait to escape. You know where I find fulfillment?
The south is SO UNDERRATED.
Fun Fact: Foliage and nature help humans achieve happiness. Not everyone likes to trudge through the mud or get their hands dirty, but being surrounded by the beauty of nature subconsciously disengages our minds from the stress of our daily routines and responsibilities. It’s freaking transcendent. After a few hours in the concrete jungle I’m usually ready to jump out of a window. I’ve read nearly every issue of National Geographic since 2005, cover to cover, and it never occurred to me that maybe I just like nature. And geography. I seriously could not have been less emotionally intelligent. Heeeeere’s your sign, Dev.
Before I got a job in Philadelphia I spent a lot of time patrolling job sites for a perfect job in the south. Circumstances don’t always work according to what we want, as you can tell by the fact that I still live and work in the north (WARDEN OF THE NORTH!), but I’m happy with it because my lame suburban town has a fudge-ton of foliage and pretty things to look at. So, there’s always that.
The south has space, fresh air, greenness everywhere, friendly people who call each other by their first names, and wildlife that doesn’t get wayyyyy too comfortable with humans, like our freakish squirrels and pigeons. Seriously, I had a pigeon take a nap next to my feet inside the Javits Convention Center in NYC the other day. Like, it just landed there and took a nap. I named him Ben.
So, cities… They’re cool, but in a Tootsie Pop kind of way. The good part is surrounded by the tangy part and this is a terrible analogy because Tootsie Pops are delicious, but you get my point. The good doesn’t outweigh the bad unless you’re chasing the fashion industry, in which case yeah, that doesn’t really happen anywhere else so I see your point.
I’m just going to go plan my escape to New Orleans and pretend like I don’t see the homeless man using his shoe as a pillow while he takes a nap on the grate outside my Starbucks every morning.