Friday, July 29, 2011

City Living versus Country Livin'

(I know, it's late, and a bit off topic compared to what I've been writing about lately. It's Friday, it's my anniversary, and this was lying around on my hard drive.)

I live in the country. Technically, I live “in town”, but when the town in question is only about 6000 people and in the middle of a National Forrest, I think I can safely say that I live in a rural area. We are an hour from any real city, but even the cities we are close to aren’t large urban areas. To say that living here has been an adjustment for me is an understatement.

I grew up in the suburbs of Montreal. Downtown was only a bus and metro ride away. We had sports teams, museums, a symphony, concerts, shopping, restaurants, ethnic neighborhoods, everything. I’ve also recently lived in Southern California, with everything that involves. I loved having relatively easy access to just about anything and everything I could ever want.

And by relatively easy, I mean, willing to put up with the traffic to get there.

There are certainly advantages to living in a rural area. Real estate is much more affordable; the house and lot we just bought would be unattainable for us in any urban area. We live only a short walk from campus, meaning we only own one car and use it sparingly. Parenting isn’t a full-contact sport here. There is no competition as to who has the best stroller, whose child has the latest and greatest cognitive development toys, and who got into which (obscenely priced) preschool. I don’t have to worry about over-scheduling my kids because there is only a limited amount of things I can sign them up for.

Which is a disadvantage as well. My kids both love dancing, but there aren’t any classes offered for their age group, unless I am willing to drive an hour each way.  Perhaps a parent more dedicated than myself would make that drive, but two hours (and the gas) are a luxury we can’t really afford right now. I miss having options for just about everything: food, shopping, entertainment. While at a recent conference in Toronto, my mouth watered as I walked passed restaurant after restaurant, offering cuisine I just don’t have access to anymore and seeing posters for events I know my family (or just me) would adore.

Finding things for us to do here is also a lot more work. I am used to being able to just simply look online for schedules, directions, pricing, and other information. Here, most local businesses don’t have a website, and the city website is equally unhelpful and usually out-of-date. Here, if you want to know what’s going on, you have to buy the local paper and make friends with the locals. Not that that’s a bad thing, just something that I am still trying to adapt to.

We feel pretty fortunate, however, to be living (and working!) where we are. There were no waiting lists or tests or sky-high registration fees to get my kids into the best preschool here in town, which they both adore. The schools here are good, and, although not tremendously diverse ethnically (the entire state we live in isn’t very diverse), there is a great deal of socio-economic diversity.  It’s been hard to “break in” to the social circles here (we are city folk, after all), but we’re making inroads and starting to feel like a part of the community.

It hasn’t been an easy transition, but I can see the changes in myself when I do travel to the city for one reason or another (mostly conferences). I feel more at home when able to ride on public transit, more comfortable around people speaking different languages, more excited by all of the opportunities, cultural and otherwise, that the big city offers. But I also recoil at the site of the giant, impersonal high-rise condo that seem to be springing up everywhere and disgusted at the price. I am more grateful for the slower pace here, grateful for the fact that my kids can be kids here, and I can be myself as a mother. This place may not have been our first choice, but it’s now home and home for now.

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