Five Things to be Grateful for When You Live in a City
Life in New York City can be really hard, especially for working families. The indignities are rapid fire. I can only imagine it’s the same in any other large or expensive city. There was a story in New York Magazine recently written by a woman who talks about her experience of New York, and why she finally moved to the suburbs:
“You choose difficulty. You choose trudging. You choose harsh winters and hot summers, no central air or central heat, no thermostat. You choose plastic bags digging creases into your wrists as you climb stairs with your four bags of groceries, meant to last three days at most. You choose compromise, choose expense, choose discomfort, in exchange for the best of everything, except quality of life.”
When you’re feeling broke, or the weather is crappy, or your boss is especially jerky, it’s easy to say to yourself, “What the hell am I doing here?” I have days like this, when I wish I was from someplace else so that if I ever got too overwhelmed, I could just say, in my best Cartman, “Screw you guys, I’m going home.” That’s when I remind myself about the reasons I love New York City. Because, I am home — something that this lady in NY Mag clearly did not feel. Even though I have complaints, I choose to live here because it makes me happy.
Gratitude is a neat trick. Here are a few things that I am thankful for, including some of the less obvious joys of living in a city.
1. Forced Downsizing
We all talk the talk about minimalism, decluttering and simplifying. But when you live apartment life, you have absolutely no choice. And this is a good thing because getting rid of stuff is hard. Especially your children’s things. Holding on to every book and piece of artwork is not adding to your quality of life. When you’re in a tight space, eventually reason takes precedence over sentimentality. A lifetime of living this way has upsides, such as not having to leave your home in retirement, and being able to remain where your friends and memories are.
2. Summer Weekends & Holiday Weekends
New York City has a real get out of town on the weekend culture. Thankfully, many of us have half day Fridays in the summer, to help us abscond. It’s only fair. We do without a lot, so getting out of town is our birth right. But having the city to myself when everyone else is out of town is one of my most favorite things.
I used to stress about being in Brooklyn on a summer weekend, especially when I first had kids. I felt like we had to be someplace, anyplace else. But as life has become busier, I appreciate the serene beauty of being in town when everyone else is gone. (I swear I am not only talking about parking!)
3. Stoop sales
Stoop sales are a lifesaver. You can get rid of all your kids’ outgrown toys, clothes, books etc and make enough money for it to be worth standing outside for five hours. I sell almost everything for a dollar, but enough people come and usually buy a bunch of things so that I always end up getting rid of a ton of stuff and making some extra cash. Win, win. What’s left, I leave outside, as so many people here do, and everything is gone by morning, its journey to the landfill happily diverted.
4. Forgot ginger? Run to the corner!
It never fails. My husband calls me up, says he’s at the store and do I need anything. “Nope, all good!” I say. And then the minute I start cooking the realization that I actually do need one or more things dawns on me. This is a weekly occurrence. But it’s ok because I can run 150 steps to the deli and get whatever I need. Just like magic. OK, so this is a pretty obvious benefit of city life. But it is so central to my survival, I had to include it.
5. Live Music
Having kids means that a lot of the things you used to enjoy doing take a back seat. Going out at night is one. Something as simple as going to the movies means hiring a babysitter and getting pizza for everyone. And if you’re going to pay a sitter, you might as well go out to dinner yourself. Next thing you know, it cost you $200 to go see an Avengers movie.
Seeing live music is something I really appreciate because I am pretty sure I would rarely, if ever, see any of my favorite bands perform if I moved to the suburbs. Those smaller artists that play on a Thursday night and go on late… getting a sitter for that and then having to take an hour or more to get home afterward? Not bloody likely. Same goes for weeknight sports events. Being close to major and minor venues makes it doable.
Parking tickets, housing costs, space constraints, no backyard… I have complaints. But I have found a way to peacefully coexist with these things. However, not every issue can be talked away. I’m not some kind of deranged Pollyanna!
There is one thing that gets me down. As Brooklyn becomes more like Manhattan, the feeling of living in a real community is slowly degrading. Rather than setting down roots, so many people are just passing through. A lot of wealthy international professionals, taking their year or two in New York. Lots of moving trucks make it feel more hotel-like than it used to. This is driving up rents and resulting in our having to say tearful goodbyes to friends who tried to make a life here, but decided to leave because the math just did not work for them. It is one indisputable bummer that I don’t have any real consolation for.
Nothing is ever perfect. But that’s ok. It doesn’t have to be. Happiness is not the same as perfection.
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