“There’s no pretty way to put this: I grew up in the suburbs. I guess most people think of the suburb as a place with all the disadvantages of the city, and none of the advantages of the country, and vice versa. But, in a way, those really were the wonder years for us there in the suburbs. It was kind of a golden age for kids.” – The Wonder Years: Episode 1
I love going into the city. It’s something I love to do at least once nearly every weekend. There are concerts, shows, bars, and restaurants to experience. There is that busy buzz of activity all around you. There is the smell of stale urine and the horns honking softly in your ear. Cities have so much going for them.
However, I was born and raised in the suburbs and I can’t imagine calling my home anywhere else.
Are the Suburbs Boring?
Sure, the first thing people complain about when it comes to suburban living is how boring it is. No, Kendrick Lamar is not going to be playing a pop-up show in a backwoods area of the greater Philadelphia region. No, Kim and Kanye aren’t going to pop up in a diner in South Jersey. If your idea of normal living involves celebrity sightings, you may be sorely disappointed.
To me, the suburbs are not boring. The point of a suburb is to be sub-urban, just beyond the reach of the urban sprawl. You’re close enough to the city to head in on a moment’s notice, but far enough removed to maintain some semblance of peace and space.
The Great Outdoors
The most exciting part of the suburbs to me is the connection you have with nature. I don’t know about the state that you live in, but Pennsylvania definitely leans heavily toward the preservation of public park spaces and natural beauty.
In my weight loss journey from 400lbs – 250lbs, much of that was due to the access to nature. I was able to get to a nature preserve daily, all seasons of the year, and spend an hour hiking there in the quiet solitude of headphones and thick woods alongside creeks and farmland. It was beautiful and it made me feel good inside.
The cities of the world may have parks here or there, but they are usually urbanized parks, crowded parks, and parks that don’t feel natural at all. They’re too pre-planned and too manmade. It’s not to say that Fairmount Park and Central Park and Balboa Park aren’t beautiful, but they don’t feel natural. They lack that intrinsic quality that makes more organic parks feel like an escape from everyday life.
The Advantages of Having Space
Another part of living in the suburbs that I love from a more practical standpoint is the amount of parking space. I never have to pay to park. I never have to worry if I can find a spot outside of a restaurant, at the grocery store, or at a friend’s residence. That ease of social planning alone helps a person as OCD as I am immensely.
Once I’m comfortable with an environment and getting someplace, my anxiety vanishes, but the first time I drive to a new place I’m constantly fearful of making the wrong turn, parking somewhere where I’ll get a ticket, or generally making a mess of the situation. The suburbs don’t give me that kind of paranoia because there’s always a safe place to store my car and I don’t have to pay $10-$40 a pop for the privilege.
Piggybacking on the ease of parking, I also just love the freedom of being able to drive everywhere. Sure, sometimes it works against me when I’m drunk and stranded, but that’s what Lyft and Uber are for. The best time of year is when it’s a chilly November night and you can drive through the darkness with the windows open and the heat blasting. Throw on some tunes and enjoy the glorious liberty of open roads.
It’s also great to have the space to store all of your useless shit. Instead of renting a storage unit, you can stuff closets or basements or attics with piles of things that you won’t look at for 20 years and will possibly cause a fire hazard.
I’m generally a minimalist, but I’m also a sentimentalist. I have a metric ass ton of old action figures (specifically TMNT-related) and other toys from my childhood that you couldn’t pry from my cold, dead hands. It’s nice to have somewhere to put them without paying a monthly fee.
I can fit furniture in my living room, I have cabinets for all of my kitchen wares, I have my own office. My office is little more than a trophy case of nostalgic bullshit, a Super Nintendo, and a gaming computer rig, but the extra space a suburban living space affords you cannot go unrecognized. I never have to worry about buying too many things. I don’t know what I would do in a small apartment.
Yards and Neighbors
Having a yard is really important to me as well. Whether you have pets, kids, or simply want a place to put your bonfire and patio furniture, a yard is necessary to happy life. I adore my patio and sit out there often with a cup of coffee and some headphones and take in the scenery for a few sweet hours. It’s nice to have some space to stretch your legs and appreciate the air outside of a dusty HVAC unit.
I also love the sense of community that comes with a family-oriented suburban area. There’s quite a bit of good to be said about the ability to walk to a neighbor’s house and knock on their door to ask for some help in a time of need. Maybe you’re not best friends, but there’s always a mild neighborly quality to living on a street with a bunch of families. For the most part, people are apt to help.
Living Cheaply and Safely
In addition to the space and connection with nature, suburban living is generally cheaper as well. Even if you’re renting, the amount of square footage you get for the money is incomparable. Cities are generally far more expensive for most areas of your life. You’re always taking cabs or Ubers or Lyfts everywhere, your dinners are more expensive, your drinks are astronomically overpriced, and your groceries and home wares are at least a few dollars more than their suburban counterparts. It’s allowed me to save quite a bit of money and still exist with a high standard of living.
Finally, safety is always a concern no matter where I live. Even moving across country like I did a few years ago, I was constantly looking at crime maps to see what areas were limited to property crimes and petty theft. There are far less violent crimes in suburban areas, obviously due to the decreased poverty rates and lower population sizes, but it still makes me feel safer to live in such an area.
The police arrive within minutes because they’re always bored as fuck and there’s fewer break-in’s and barely any physical violence or murders to report on. When it happens, it’s rare and it’s a big deal and usually has a motive behind it. That always makes me feel better than random assaults or robberies.
Admittedly, living in the suburbs may not be as exciting or glamorous as living in a big, famous city, but it’s benefits far outweigh its shortcomings.
Plus, like I said in the opening, you can always visit the city. It’s never more than 30-40 minutes away and I still have access to all of the same amenities and social events and cultural experiences, but I can go home at the end of the night to someplace quiet and safe and spacious and I wouldn’t have it any other way.