Downsizing

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Our old apartment.

There’s this notion that when you move, you’re movin’ on up, so to speak.  Dorm room to apartment, apartment to house, house to sprawling mansion with accompanying jet and in-home McDonald’s (oh wait, that’s Richie Rich).  At the very least, there’s this general understanding that you’re getting more of something.  (Oh my God, this post is going to be loaded with First World Problems.  Sorry to offend you, spambots from Nigeria.)

When Lance and I moved out of the city and into the sub-est of suburbs, we acquired substantially more space, several hundred square feet, at least.  A huge walk-in closet, enormous kitchen and balcony, so much space in the bedroom we didn’t know what to do with it.

So when we decided to ditch the suburbs and give the city another shot, we knew in a sort of vague conceptual sense that we’d be sacrificing something for the location: we’d be getting less space for our money, especially given that our requirements severely limited our affordable options (in-unit washer and dryer, dishwasher, central A/C).

“Sure, sure, we can swing that,” we both told ourselves about giving up space.  “It’ll give us the chance to purge stuff we don’t need!” we said.  “It’ll encourage us to lose weight to create the illusion of more room!!!”

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…And the new apartment (obviously, our aesthetic hasn’t changed much.)

I was also nervous because, since I work in the city and Lance does not, I was tasked with finding an apartment all on my own.  Lance was putting his trust in me, which, when it comes to your home (and let’s be honest, in general), is a scary proposition and daunting responsibility.  When I toured what would become our new apartment, I felt an immediate connection and told Lance the same.  “Let’s do it,” he said.  And so we put down our security deposit.

The day I picked up the keys, the same apartment I viewed some two months earlier looked SO SMALL.  Holy crap, I thought to myself, how are we going to fit everything in here? Lance is going to hate me for picking out this place and we’re going to get a divorce except we can’t in Pennsyltucky since it’s full of redneck bigots who don’t even recognize our union and we’ll be stuck in a violent tailspin of a marriage forever OH MY GODDDDD

The night before we moved; I couldn’t sleep–I was experiencing a low-grade panic attack as if we’d made some terrible mistake. But there was no turning back.

On the day we had Lance’s brothers over to paint the new place, dozens of rats were skittering around in the daylight just outside the entrance to our building.  Like, rats bigger than my adult cat just strolling down the sidewalk.  My stomach lurched.

Of course, we couldn’t fit everything in our new place (we knew early on in the process that we’d have to get a storage unit, not uncommon for people our age living in the city); we were giving up the walk-in closet, the balcony, the enormous bedroom.

The first few days in the new place, instead of being excited to be back in the city, I felt defeated, a whole variety of emotions:

Our bedroom is so small.

The dog isn’t adjusting well to the city.

Why don’t we own a house?

Why didn’t I notice that there was no garbage disposal before we put down the security deposit?

The Rat King is going to eat through the door.  I have to mentally prepare myself for this.

I had to remind myself that even though we were downsizing, we were downsizing on purpose. We consciously made the decision to live in the city; we’ll probably live in the (or “a”) city for the next 5-10 years, at least.  What they say about “location, location, location” is totally true.  You pay for what you get–all of it, not the space inside your four walls, but everything outside of them, too.

Our first weekend in the new place, when we were able to walk a block and a half to the Starbucks (as opposed to driving ten minutes to the closest location in a strip mall), I started to feel a little better.  When I was able to walk along the river path to work instead of biking to the train station, and then commuting an hour each way every day, I felt a sense of relief.

And a few days in, as things settled down, I felt content. The sense of constant irritation at being forever bored in the suburbs was gone; even if we were just lounging around the new apartment, at least the possibility existed of us just walking out the door and having dozens of different things to do right at our fingertips.

This is what I tweeted next.

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Escape From The Suburbs

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Ripley checking out his new home.

“Why did we ever leave?” Lance asked me.

“We were too impulsive,” I said, which is not a word you usually associate with “the suburbs.”

Lance and I met in the city.  We dated in the city, got our first pet in the city, moved in together in the city.  We started our married life in the city.  But things change–bad jobs and experiences sour your relationship with a place.

Philly is not a beautiful city.  (When we got back from Tokyo, I realized I’d be embarrassed to invite somebody from such a clean, well-organized metropolis to dingy, dilapidated old bag like Philadelphia.)  It’s dirty and huge swaths of it are really, actually falling down.  Our “shopping district” consists of, like, three blocks of one street.  Philadelphians aren’t New York City rude, they’re angry and mean; the Ben & Jerry’s employees in our Amtrak station wear t-shirts that read “I’m not angry, I’m from Philly.”

So we got disillusioned after awhile.  The city and the experiences we had therein just wore us down, so we left.  That, and Lance loved his Ruby Tuesdays and his Dunkin Donuts, so the suburbs just made sense.

But man, was it boring.

There are a lot of stories about how the suburbs (or, at least, our particular suburb) didn’t work for us, which I never covered here since Lance and I were, at the time, doing a delicate dance of negotiation and, well, pretending to be happy.  While it was quiet, we couldn’t handle the fact that our only options for entertainment were a classic car show or getting drinks at local watering hole Dirty Jerzees, and we had moved so far out of the city that it was a legitimate pain in the butt for us to get to any of our friends’, and vice versa.  I was commuting an hour each way, via car and bike and walking and train.  We only have one car, which further complicated matters.

Moving to the suburbs was just a half-baked idea, a little knee-jerk.  It wasn’t for us.

Philly, you’re not a perfect city.  We don’t even like you all that much.  But, baby, you’re what we’ve got.