Suburbia: A Blessing or a Curse?

I’ve lived in the same suburb of Portland my entire life. We moved once, but only up the street into a house with new construction. How first world of us.

During junior high and high school I often hated our suburb. I was different from most of my classmates: I wasn’t particularly interested in sports, my mom worked full-time and thus didn’t have time to schmooze with the supermoms, I hadn’t known my clique friends since kindergarten. I didn’t really connect with this extremely interconnected suburban identity.

carAs soon as my older sister could drive, we spent as much time in Portland as we could. We drove farther to movie theaters and grocery stores. When we went out for dinner, we preferred Portland restaurants to the ones in our own town. We avoided our nearby malls at all costs. All of this to minimize the chances of seeing people we knew and to get away from the sometimes overwhelming social web.

Sometimes the suburbs are a curse.

During my senior year I felt a huge shift. I was about to leave my town’s interconnectedness, so I started appreciating it. I stopped avoiding my classmates while running errands. I initiated conversations with people instead of pretending I hadn’t seen them. 1003971_10201099850449445_247125169_nI no longer dreaded the possibility of seeing a familiar face any time I left the house. I started valuing the feeling of small-town community. 

That community network showed its strength yesterday at my sister’s 20th birthday celebration. I noticed that one of the kids I’d taught to read at my after-school job in high school was sitting at the next table over. As we got up to leave, I stopped at their table to catch up for a couple minutes.

The mom was shocked I remembered her son was going into 2nd grade. I was surprised she even recognized me with my short hair. We discussed school and I asked if she and her husband had ever done a sake tasting at that Japanese restaurant. They said no, they didn’t have a babysitter, so I offered up my number so they could have a date night.

I didn’t avoid them or pretend not to recognize them. In fact, I was thrilled to run into people from my past community. And, who knows, our existing connection to each other may turn into a job.

Sometimes the suburbs are a blessing.

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6 thoughts on “Suburbia: A Blessing or a Curse?

  1. I lived in the same house growing up for nearly 20 years. While we weren’t in the suburbs, many of the same kids grew up there for that long as well. I bump into them online every once and a while, what with my time frame being 20 years ago and lots can happen in that time. But we still remember the same things, the same people, the same events that brought us tears, laughs, joy. That feeling of togetherness should never be underestimated.

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  2. I feel like suburbia has its pros and its cons, just like all environments. I grew up in a suburban area as well, and even though I have always disliked the monotony and single-mindedness most of the people in my area exhibit, I am learning to appreciate the lack of salient crime and the quietness that surrounds me. Perhaps I’d like to live in a city for a few years just for the experience, but I feel that suburbia is a good place to raise kids. Great post!

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    • Yes! The crime thing (or, rather, lack thereof) is huge too, I was once scared at night while dogsitting and my mantra to myself was “this town is so safe, this town is so safe” and it was comforting. Living in a city does seem fun, but it’s true that for family life suburbia is enticing. Thanks so much!

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  3. Pingback: Six Months? | Victim to Charm

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