In the past couple of months, a funny thing has happened to me, and that is that I’ve found myself starting to grow very weary of cities. I’ve grown tired, primarily, of how prohibitively expensive they’ve become to live in, and how much of a pain the ass it can be to just do ordinary things, like go to the post office, or get a new driver’s license. Now that I’ve moved myself all the way across the country from where I spent the first 30 years of my life, I’ve proven that it can be done, that I can move somewhere and “reinvent” myself and it can work fabulously, and that ultimately, most every place is sort of just like every other place.
On a recent weekend trip to Astoria, Tom and I talked a romantic vision of packing up and renting a small home somewhere in that little coastal town and getting jobs teaching at the local community college, and setting up a practice, and making a quiet, simple, possibly dull little life for ourselves in a town no bigger than 5 square miles. There are some bookstores there, and one or two decent restaurants, and some bars. The life you create for yourself can be anywhere you choose for it to be. The only things I primarily do anyway are hang out at people’s houses, watch movies, read, and cook a lot. Why do I need to be spending 2/3 of my income on rent, and hours of my week on public transportation to do that? The easy answer is, I don’t.
Yes, small town life has become extremely appealing to me as of late. Of course, if I were to make such a decision as to live in a small town, it would have to the right small town, one where I could still feel safe, and free to be who I am in the open, and raise children there. Which, let’s face it, probably encompasses very few actual small towns, and probably primarily on the coasts, like Astoria, Olympia, and Asheville.
I was talking to a friend about this last night, and she agreed with my sentiments. She told me she was reading a book right now that was sort of offering this same sentiment, that with all of the competition, economic uncertainty, and sky-high cost of living in most places, our generation seemed to be sort of shifting back to appreciating the smaller pleasures of life, often easier found in smaller communities. A slower pace, less financial stress, less social stress and pressure, a stronger sense of community and belonging, and a real need to be closer to family.
Of course, it’s always a trade-off. When Tom and I were in Astoria, we couldn’t find a decent restaurant to eat at to save our lives (a couple of places were booked for Valentine’s Day), and we sort of laughed at the irony of the fact that we ended up at a not very good, out of the way Mexican joint for dinner. We cook together most of the time, though, and it’s one of our favorite things to do as a couple. We help each other prepare things, and we love to try new recipes and concoctions, most of which end up pretty good. Lately I’ve come to prefer that method of eating over the hassle, cost and uncertainty of fine, city dining. I think I’d probably be okay living someplace with 2 or 3 decent restaurants to eat at occasionally and eating at home the rest of the time (even in the culinary paradise of Austin, after 10 years, there were still only a small handful of restaurants I ever ate at, over and over).
Who knows, maybe I would hate it, and feel constricted living in a small place. It’s hard to say, but as I get older, and feel less and less need for “glamor” or excitement in my life, and more of a pull toward family, stability and domesticity, that small, simple lifestyle is looking better and better.