When Eric and I moved in together last April, I moved to his apartment the suburbs because, well, why not? I like the ‘burbs enough. They are convenient, they feel like my hometown in Michigan, and in this case, the apartment was close enough to the city that I didn’t feel like I’d be totally cut off. Plus, my job is out here, and I love being close to work. So for the past year, I’ve been living in the suburbs (or “the country” according to my coworkers). And while I can’t say that I was exactly unhappy out here, about nine months in, I started to feel like something was just…off.
Dilemma #2: The City vs. The Country
As I said earlier, since my staying in Houston was dependent on my making it feel like home, I started putting a lot more effort into making friends and taking advantage of the cool things that the city has to offer. But after a few months of doing this, I realized that I was really far from all the people and things that were happening. Even though we are close enough to the city that we aren’t totally cut off, getting the motivation to go into said city to do said things can be really hard. I’ve been trying — we both have — but the traffic and heat make it pretty exhausting. So I just began to look forward to moving back to the city at some point.
And I realized — and this was a big “getting it” moment for me — that the only way I’ve ever really been OK with living the suburbs was by seeing them as short-term thing. The suburbs were either a relief from the city, a place to go for a little while to escape all the ways the city can suck, or a place I was stuck for longer than I wanted to be due to my family or financial situation. But I always treated living there as temporary.
When I started to think about moving back to the city, I realized I didn’t know if Eric was hoping to do the same. Actually I was pretty sure he wasn’t. I began to worry…what if it’s not temporary? What if this is it?
So once again Eric and I had to ask ourselves: where will we live?
This time, answering that question was a lot more heated. Eric thought I liked living in the suburbs and the fact is, I do. But then I don’t. Since I was moved to Grand Blanc as a kid, after living in Chicago, I’ve felt torn between the city and the suburbs. I tried to explain to him why the suburbs were starting to become a problem for me, and, once again, I was struck by how our desired living situations so clearly reflected who we are.
Eric is low-maintenance, a homebody, not terribly concerned with keeping up with trends, and he values working hard and earning a nice, though not overly flashy, life. While he likes having the option to go into the city, he doesn’t like the grind that is living in the city. Knowing that, I totally understood why buying a house in the suburbs was part of the plan he has for himself.
While I’m also laid-back and love doing things at home, I like being that person in the midst of a chaotic city. I like trying new things and meeting new people, and I’m OK with the grind (even though I, like most city-dwellers, complain about it when I’m in the middle of it). But what really hit me during this conversation was that I’ve really started to own the fact that I am a creative, a writer, by profession, and that creatives flock to the cities for a reason. Being the ability to interact with other creatives on a regular basis, I also like the city because it provides me with new and different experiences — which provides me with new material.
Living in the city inspires me and makes me feel hungry in a way that life in the suburbs just doesn’t. That’s really what it came down to for me, and that’s why I was feeling so strongly that I needed to be back in the city. It’s not that my work was sucking, but I knew it could be better. I know it seems silly, but I was worried that by staying in the suburbs, I was just going to slide into having 2.5 kids and a minivan without even realizing it. Life in the suburbs moves slow, and I was worried I, too, was going to slow down…and then eventually grind to a halt. While I know that plenty of creatives live in the suburbs, have their 2.5 kids and a minivan, and do great work, I felt like at this point in my life, I still need the energy of a city to keep me going.
While Eric understood where I was coming from, he felt like the city would be way too expensive and way too stressful to make it worth it. And…he had a point. I couldn’t say for sure. I wanted to be able to fight hard for this, but I was scared. What if I was wrong?
And as we struggled to answer these questions and figure out how to compromise, we landed on the bigger dilemma that I’d been denying, dreading, and avoiding: renting vs. buying.