I'm not sure if this entry will make any sense to my readers who are not in the Columbus area. But perhaps it will, because even though I use specific names of neighborhoods and surrounding towns, the concepts are general. And I think the post is more about the concepts than the specifics.
Today I attended a training session in downtown Columbus and as I was walking back to the correct entry to the Statehouse garage, I looked around and had this huge flashback. When I was in high school and college, my vision of success was to work in a tall office building in the downtown of a big city -- preferably Chicago-type big, but Columbus wasn't ruled out. I worked some temp jobs downtown while in college and grad school, and I can remember being so enchanted by the cosmopolitan flavor of it all. I have a vivid recollection of this vision I used to have of myself coming out of a skycraper in a suit, carrying a briefcase, and getting into a convertible sports car and driving out of the city for the weekend, home to a place on the outskirts where I envisioned life sort of like the Connecticut homes some New Yorkers keep. I never lived that situation in real life, but it had seemed so real in my dreams that standing downtown like that, I could still recall it as if I had actually lived it.
Then I got my car and drove out of the garage and up High Street past the Short North before cutting over to pick up the freeway. As I drove through the Short North, I flashed back to some really good times Bob and I have had there, of dinners and drinks in trendy restaurants, gallery hops, and soaking up the overall aura of coolness. There was a time in my life, around the 1990's, when I thought living in an urban chic neighborhood like that would be so much fun. Life never presented a good opportunity to make that one come true, either, and I have since grown to the opinion that it is a neighborhood I'd rather visit than live in. But I still enjoy it immensely for visits!
That made me reflect on what other living situations I had wanted over the years, how my tastes had changed or stayed the same. When I wanted to do the whole skyscraper/country home thing, I lived first in Bexley and then in Newark. I never had a huge desire to live in Newark, though I had good times there. Then my job took us to Mansfield and while we had very good times there, many sweet memories, I would have to say that Bob and I never really liked living in Mansfield. Once Sam was born, we proactively decided that we wanted to raise him in a bigger, more diverse city, and came back to Columbus.
When we moved back, we chose the Worthington area. Over the years I might have liked to have been just one price-point higher in suburbia, but overall, this house we bought in 1995 has worked out well for us. I am sort of locked into the idea that a suburb is the right place ot raise kids, so we chose this one and life has been good. Somewhere along the way I came to the conclusion that we really have too much house, but that is a better problem to have than the opposite. It just takes a lot of work to maintain.
I went through a phase where I used to say that as soon as Sam was off to college, I wanted to move into a condo and be done with yardwork and the other responsibilities of home owning. But I've watched too many friends have mixed experiences with condos, so I've backed off of that theory. And I used to think I might finally indulge my taste for urban living when we became empty nesters, but I've had another realization: almost all our friends are in the suburbs, ranging from Hilliard and Dublin and Powell to Worthington and Lewis Center and Westerville. Most of our activities are centered around our church in Powell or Bob's Boy Scout commitments, in the Lewis Center area. So really, it would be silly to move into the center of the city only to commute back out to the suburbs for our entire social life. My new plan is to take our time but within a few years of Sam's departure for college, we will probably downsize to a smaller home in one of the more modest neighborhoods in the West Worthington or Powell area. That way we can hire out the yardwork and other duties we don't want to do, have plenty of room for the two of us and Sam to visit, and be close to the people whose company we enjoy.
So there you have it, ruminations on one of the most fundamental life choices, where to live. High powered urbanite and trendy urban chic dweller were dreams of my youth that never came to be and I've lost my taste for them. Small town dweller was the card life dealt me and though we had a good run, it was never a comfortable fit. Suburbanite still sounds shallow to me, and vaguely like something I should apologize for, and yet it seems to be where I found happiness. I don't find my own life here shallow, nor those of my many friends. Perhaps that's because we never did chase the building booms and live in whatever was "the" suburb of the era, or perhaps it's just because suburbs get an unfair rap. But it is what it is, and I am who I am. And who I am is someone who lives in a comfortable suburb and has a good life. Funny how things work out, huh?