JR’s Not-So-Literal Blog

My Village

Posted in Uncategorized by notsoliteral on December 8, 2009

I guess I know enough about myself to know where I find the most peace of mind, the most productivity and the most curiosity and interest in life on a day to day basis. I’ve lived in quite a few different places within Massachusetts and beyond and I have to say that the common denominators of happy day to day living were associated with what I like to call village living.

Moving from apartment to apartment thoughout Boston, I seemed to always gravitate to places that were within a few blocks of the MBTA. I went to school downtown and some of the jobs I had were downtown as well. Doing the early morning routine has never been easy for me, but I’ve also realized that in order to squeeze the most juice out of every single day, I needed to take a few hours here and there. So, getting up early to workout or get writing done was the best way for me to gain momentum in a given direction.

The MBTA isn’t a glorious public transport system by any means, but you can get pretty much anywhere within the city limits by train and bus in about an hour and a half. This sounds like a hassle to people who prefer driving, but part of my city living was being productive while on train rides. Whether it was reading a book or two a week on my commute or writing or researching jobs or grad schools, I was always able to zone out and get stuff done to and from work.

When I got my first real, full time, salaried job in Newton, I made my initial move out of the city to a semi-suburb. Newton is pretty cool and has a decent amount to do, but I opted to buy a car.

The following years, I progressively moved away from my public transportation lifestyle. I moved home to Worcester twice because of a failed relocation to Chicago and some financial difficulty. I found myself living 40 miles from work and commuting up to 4 hours a day in my car for a job that wasn’t much better paying than any of the ones I had in the city. I gravitated towards this because I thought I was making positive career choices.

In hindsight, I wouldn’t have wound up in the job I love now if I hadn’t made these steps, but I’m also realizing that to play to my natural tendency to walk places and take public transportation, that I’ll want to live in a place where my work and home are close enough for me to not have to travel and distance by car between them.

People I look up to who have things that I want for myself like a house, a dog and a back yard have told me time and time again that the more I grow up, the less that living in a city will appeal to me, especially when I decide to get married and have a family. I still wonder if I can have the things I want in life and still live my village lifestyle.

What do you value location and lifestyle wise? What kind of sacrifices have you made to have one over the other? How do you see yourself having a balance of both?

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15 Responses

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  1. Stephanie said, on December 13, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    I live in the 4th largest metropolitan area, would like to use public transport if it were available and am jealous of anyone who can hop on a bus or train. I’d love to sacrifice my car!

    I struggle with where I’d like to live, but as you know I’m currently hanging around Mom’s :) However, when I move, I have no idea where I’m going. Heading south to Austin would me awesome, but then I think of how I’m ready to get this family making process together, but (once again!) I remember I’m extremely single so the city is still acceptable. For how long, that’s another issue. I’m just gonna go with the flow.

    I feel like I rambled.

  2. Pixie658 said, on December 13, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Wow, this post really speaks volumes to me!
    I have moved 6 times since 2001. I am applying to PhD programs, so where I live next year at this time will depend on what program I get into. Even if I stay at my current school, I will move closer to campus so I do not have to commute so far. Sometimes my commute is 30 minutes, sometimes it’s 2 hours with bad traffic. I don’t live in a big city, but I do prefer city living or at least not suburb living. I want to be within a five minute drive of what I need on a daily basis. Outside of school and the occasional party in Norfolk, I have that where I live now. On the other hand, I would prefer to be able to take public transportation or walk, but most big cities cost an arm and a leg to live there. I have to think about money, too.
    I used to think I wanted a house with the yard and the dog and all of that, but now that I have lived in apartments or small spaces for so long, I am actually a fan of compact, studio style living. It forces me to be organized, more simplistic in living. There is less responsibility and it is less time consuming to maintain a small place. While I would love to be able to afford a dog, I would rather own a dog who does well in a small space than live in the suburbs.
    I think once I settle into a place (i.e., a PhD program), I can make more long term living arrangement plans because I will be in one place for about 4-5 years.
    For now, I value being within driving distance of all the things I need. I live w/in 30 minutes of my best friends, school, concerts & all my day to day needs like Target, local shops, coffee, Trader Joe’s, yoga, chiropractor, etc. are 5 minutes from my house. I live a few hours from DC and a train ride away from NYC and Boston. Right now it works. And I LOVE this area so much.
    My perfect home would be a townhouse with a small yard. Within walking distance or a short drive to public transportation. Not too yuppy, not to suburby. I want it to have local charm, but be close to the city. Falls Church, VA is one of my favorite places because it fits the mold of what I see myself doing once I am done with school.

    • notsoliteral said, on December 13, 2009 at 7:41 pm

      I forgot to mention, living abroad for a period of time isn’t out of the question either!

  3. notsoliteral said, on December 13, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    @Stephanie, you’re not rambling, that’s pretty much the stream of consciousness a lot of people, including myself deal with. I think the thing for me is that regardless of when and if I have a family, I’ll always want to do the city thing. I’ll need it to be a desire in my wife, whomever she may be, too. That’s tough because I feel like I’m in the minority and most people don’t identify with that kind of desire. I could be wrong. I just don’t want to be roped into a lifestyle I don’t want for the sake of “settling down” with the right person. I think I can find someone who wants what I want, at least in that regard. I’m willing to compromise on other stuff.

  4. notsoliteral said, on December 13, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    @Alex, I love that idea! The PhD. is attractive because it’s an anchor, but it also is productive, you know? Sounds like you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you want. I have to admit, your proximity to things sounds pretty good.

    I don’t know which type of place is my IDEAL place, but Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville Massachusetts are all near the top of my list. Extremely expensive, but I’m working hard to make the kind of money that will allow me to live that lifestyle. I’d like to see other parts of the country that reflect that sort of atmosphere as well. I want to expand my horizons and have my perceptions totally flipped on their heads while keeping my intrinsic goals, you know?

    I’m really enamored with minimalist living. Tammy, the author of The Rowdy Kitten (http://rowdykittens.com/) has some AMAZING ideas on tiny living and finding happiness in minimalism. I love studio living. I’d probably love a really small house in a good neighborhood too!

    Ideally, my best neighborhood would have a good coffee shop, a small market for food, a library, a bookstore and maybe one or two places to eat good food and have a drink with friends I’ll probably add to this list as I think of more things :-)

  5. Beth Oppenheim said, on December 14, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    This has definitely always been my way of doing things – public transit. I am a New Yorker that has recently temporarily relocated to DC. I prefer to live with the husband in a studio so that I can be in the center of things, and in walking distance of work. It sometimes is a bit cramped, but it’s the best that I can do to continue my NYC way of doing business.

    It is VERY important to me to remain in a city center, and I think that I will be like that for a very long time. Married or not, it has always been my driving force. I miss the commute of the train only because of the extra time to read, but the cost deduction of living in walking distance of work has really been helpful.

    Great ideas!!

    • notsoliteral said, on December 14, 2009 at 8:25 pm

      Ahh Beth, I totally identify with you on this! you’re very lucky that both you and your husband share these views. I hope to find someone with a similar view as well. Path of least resistance, you know???

      Beth, are there any other metropolitan areas that you’d be interested in living in that have your current values?

      • Beth Oppenheim said, on December 14, 2009 at 8:28 pm

        Absolutely! I have considered San Francisco, Portland, and (as far as abroad goes…) London, Berlin, Capetown.

        Really, I want to live everywhere at the same time. Not possible unfortunately….

      • notsoliteral said, on December 15, 2009 at 1:43 am

        I have this problem too!

  6. RowdyKittens said, on December 14, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    I prefer city life, being close to public transit and work. It makes my daily life so much easier! Plus we are near to so many amenities – coffee shops, parks, the library, etc.

    Selling the car and downsizing has improved the quality of our lives. We bike everywhere and have so much fun. We’ll be moving to Portland at the end of January and can’t wait.

    A lot of my friends have tried to “keep up with the Jones’s” and have failed. They live in the burbs, own a home, have 2 cars, commute 2 hours or more to work and are very unhappy.

    Some friends see us as odd ducks and that we have made so many “sacrifices.” But I don’t agree. We actually have the freedom to live where we want, pursue careers that make us happy and have time for friends/family.

    Bottom line – do what makes you happy and don’t settle for less. :)

    • notsoliteral said, on December 15, 2009 at 12:09 am

      Sacrifices for progress are great. I think you’re totally right about pursuing what makes you happy. It’s also about taking the time to think about what makes you happy too! I think people distract themselves from those key questions too much!

  7. Raine said, on December 15, 2009 at 3:44 am

    I love living in Salem. I would like to live closer to the city, but I like having some room around here. And I know that for the same rent Im paying here, I wouldnt get a backyard for my dog to run around in in the city. And I still get the convience of the MBTA. I actually get to work quicker than some of my city friends.

    Id like to live closer to the city but with a kid and a dog it is not going to happen. So, I am gonna stay in suburbia within easy access to the train. Simple, right?

    • notsoliteral said, on December 15, 2009 at 5:24 am

      Raine, Salem is my favorite city on the North Shore. I almost moved there a few jobs for a state job and I was really excited about it. I love the town center. So much to do out that way. Very walkable with a commuter line running right through. I think I’d actually live there if I move back to the Boston area. I’m an ocean boy and I’d love to buy a boat and maybe live by the coast and still have a job in the city. I’m totally hearing what you’re saying. Go Salem!

  8. Rishona said, on December 29, 2009 at 1:45 am

    Well I’ve had my own car since I was 15. I have never lived in the heart of a major city (I live about 40 minutes, 18 miles, south of Pittsburgh {if you know Pittsburgh, you’ll understand the ’40 minutes’ part!}). Technically, when I lived in North Miami Beach, it was very densely populated. But cities in Florida, to me, feel like endless suburban sprawl. The public transportation is limited and inefficient. So it was never a viable option. (While in South FL, I took the bus to work for 2 days while my car was in the shop. It added an extra 40 minutes to my normally 50-minute-by-car commute).

    The longest period where I did not have a car is when my old car was totaled (I was almost totaled along with it) in October 2007. I didn’t buy my current car until May 2008. Being physically disabled made having a car even a bigger necessity it seems, and I thank G-d I had the means to own one without having a job.

    Now I drive about an hour to work. To be honest, I can’t stand it. Especially in the winter time…because driving in the snow makes me edgy and that is 2 hours a day when I’m edgy. But when I was job hunting, I really could not be too picky. I had been out of work for a while and needed something. But it has to be worthwhile. I was job hunting when gas was more than $4 a gallon. I wasn’t trying to drive all over creation for a job that didn’t pay well.

    Sadly public transportation is being scaled back in Pittsburgh. It is sad…I feel that public transportation is necessary (even though I rarely use it).

    • notsoliteral said, on December 30, 2009 at 8:37 am

      @Rishona, sounds like you’re in a tough situation, drawn between what you want and what you’re living. For me, the ideal living situation and quality of life holds higher priority than living close to where I’m from. I love my family and friends, however, I simply value leading a healthy, environmentally and socially conscious life more. It’s really about where your values lie.


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