Lately, I’ve noticed a number of the younger people I used to race with are now posting pictures of themselves on Facebook, living their lives in huge McMansions in the suburbs. When did all these hip, young people become suburbanites? My memories of them all definitely do not include hopes of living in suburbia.
What amazes me even more is the disdain I feel each time I look at these pictures. I feel the city dweller’s reverse snobbery about the choices these people are making. How could these formerly cool people settle into homes that have no character or history? They are living in homes that tend to look like every other house in the neighborhood. What happened to their fierce sense of individuality?
I lived most of my life in the suburbs. I distinctly remember being just as confused over why anyone would want to live in the city. The houses seemed smaller, the neighborhoods less friendly and, according to the media, crime was a constant concern.
The suburbs have a lot to offer a family with children. When I was growing up and when I was raising my children, the higher rated public schools were the biggest part of the allure of suburban living. There was also an illusion that it was safer to live in the suburbs. The neighborhoods I’ve lived in were all oriented towards family activities with sports and block parties being the norm.
I didn’t move into Kansas City proper until my children were grown and I was single again. Over the past 10 years I have migrated from the suburbs, to the southern part of the city, to Kansas City’s Plaza district, to mid-town. With each step I felt more and more like I was coming into my own.
I love living in the city. I love the energy of the city. There are musical and artistic events held almost every day of the week. You are able to interact with people of different shapes, colors and philosophies on a daily basis. There is public transit and, if you choose a cab, it doesn’t cost a fortune to get home. Neighbors are close by, but they don’t tend to get in your business or spent a lot of time keeping track of your comings and goings.
Years ago, when I had my whole family in the car, I was driving home to the suburbs from a Royals game. Somehow or other, I got lost in the city when I took a few wrong turns. My partner at the time went into full-on panic mode. He was incensed that I would get us lost in such a “bad” part of town. He kept yelling at me that if anything happened, he and he alone, would have the responsibility of defending my children and me. Even at that time, I could only laugh at him. (Please note: I’m not real clear which neighborhood it was, but I’m pretty sure it’s an area that I travel in and out of freely today with a complete feeling of safety.)
Recently, a friend of mine had a bad experience at a store in a more urban section of town. Not only was my friend upset about how she was treated at the store she went to, she was upset about having to leave the safety of the neighborhood she lives in, and was furious she had to drive through the “damn ghetto,” to get to the store.
There are a couple of blocks on the route I suspect she took that are still recovering from the “bad old days,” of urban blight, but if she’d looked around she would’ve seen how much change has occurred in the area in the last decade or so. That “damn ghetto” she drove through is a neighborhood I drive through literally every day. I feel comfortable driving there and not once have I felt the need to lock the door for my safety. It is one of many of the parts of town that were considered “bad,” when I was growing up but have been reclaimed and rejuvenated by young families who want to raise their children in the diversity of the city.
I do not have blinders on: I know there is crime in the city. It only makes sense that if you go to a run-down part of town there might be some shady characters there. You have to stay alert and you have to listen to your instincts. You also have to recognize not everyone is shady, not everyone is ghetto.
What I think people forget is that there is crime in the suburbs too. Many years ago, when living in suburbia, we had a neighbor who shot his own son in the face for mouthing off at him. We had car windows and mailboxes smashed by vandals. When I was growing up in a different suburb of Kansas City, we had at least one neighbor who beat his wife regularly. There is crazy everywhere.
I currently reside in a charming 1st floor apartment in a pre-World War II six-plex in mid-town. I adore my new place and am charmed by all the idiosyncrasies of an older home. When I leave my home, I am alert to my surroundings, just like I was when I would leave my home in the suburbs, and just like I will be when I realize my dream and live on a beach in a climate that doesn’t have ice or snow in the winter.
Whether you live in the city, in the country or in the midst of suburbia, there will always be crime. People are people, no matter where you go. No matter where you live, bring your best, most aware self and you’ll do just fine.