Friday, February 25, 2011

Learning to Like the Urban Jungle

Although I spent my first handful of years living in various small towns and about eight months living right here in the urban jungle, I spent my formative years growing up on a farm and when asked, respond that I grew up on a farm. Being able to stand outside and not be able to see you next door neighbor, being able to walk for miles and never set foot on a sidewalk or a paved surface, living life based on sunrise and sunset or the time in-between instead of a clock, living a life where weekdays and weekends had little difference to them were all part of growing up on the farm.

I graduated high school in a town of four hundred and three months later found myself living in a concrete dorm several stories off the ground in a town of 50,000 people. It was a culture shock to say the least. The first week I slept very little because instead of being lulled to sleep by crickets or coyotes, I heard pop cans rolling on concrete, sirens, car doors slamming, people talking, sirens, etc. I survived living in a big town by spending weekends back on the farm and staying shut up behind closed doors reading books and doing homework. Gradually I worked myself out into the open but even then, I mostly drove to parks outside of town where the people were few.

As graduation drew nearer and an engineering degree looked promising, I worried about finding a job. Most jobs seemed to be in big cities and I just wasn't sure I could live in one. Fortunately, I found a job in a town of only 15,000 which seemed like the big city to me but was certainly smaller than the college town I had been living in for five and a half years. I think like adding a little bit of hot liquid to temper eggs, that town tempered me for my next job which carried me to a much larger town of nearly 50,000 people. I survived but I certainly didn't thrive and when I found my next job in a smallish town of 10,000 only 40 miles from the farm where I grew up, I leaped at the chance. I've been living there happily for the last eight years.

When we first learned that residency was only going to happen in the urban jungle, a metro area of over 560,000 people, I wasn't too keen on the idea. Finding an apartment I think stressed both my wife and I out and the trips up here to move some furniture seemed like endless miles of industrial run down parts of town. The area where our apartment is located is only a decade or two removed from being the worst part of town but due to grants and funds to rebuild the historic structures there, it is now one of the better places to live. Still, to my untrained eye, I felt nervous whenever I was out at night in the area and felt like I was just one wrong look to getting mugged.

Time would pass and gradually my feelings changed about the urban jungle. It was nothing all at once and I can't sit back and pick out specifics but reflecting about how I feel now compared to how I felt two years ago, I have been transformed. I actually enjoy my time in the urban jungle and now that my wife is a senior resident and doesn't have as many weekends on call here, I miss the place. The endless miles of roads full of run down businesses and choked of traffic don't see so bad anymore. I have learned to just relax and go with the flow and a trip clear across town only takes 15 to 20 minutes though from our apartment in the center, it rarely takes us longer than 10 minutes to get where we want to go. Growing up on a farm 60 miles from the nearest grocery store of any size or movie theater or restaurant, going somewhere usually had plenty of notice and planning involved so not to waste the trip. Here in the urban jungle, my daughter and I woke up this very morning that I typed this to a beautiful warm sunny day in February, something we rarely get in Iowa. We went to the zoo on a whim and then checked out an outstanding deli in the back of a grocery store where I got a Dad's Killer sandwich, something I had read about some time ago as a must eat in the urban jungle. The whole day just felt right, it felt comfortable, it felt like something I could handle.

Don't get my wrong, I still want to live in rural Iowa and we have no plans to live in the urban jungle anytime soon. My wife has four job offers, all at places about the same size or smaller as where we live now and as soon as we figure out which practice is where she wants to work, we will probably live there. But even then, I still see that trips up to the urban jungle will probably occur more often than they did during my childhood when we made a trip up there once every few years to see the state fair. Like I said in my previous post, if I ever fall into a bit of money, I think I might even like to rent a small apartment where we could come on some weekends to enjoy the life of the urban jungle that I have slowly come to appreciate and dare say like. However, I would still abandon this historic hill where our apartment is located for a loft right downtown within walking distances of everything. I still don't like driving those miles of business districts on the edges of the jungle.


R. Sherman said...

I hear you. I hate going to St. Louis. It doesn't scare me, but I much prefer the quiet and solitude of the country. Alas, my wife is the opposite and thus, we'll never be more than a half hour from any sizable town.

Ron said...

I like going to the big city on occasion... there are opportunities and choices there that just don't exist in a more rural area. For some things, there is more competition, which leads to better service. The city can be exciting, as there are lots of things to do beyond the basics... zoos, museums, awesome libraries, events...

If it were practical, I'd do like you and have an apartment in a metro area... then we could comfortably hang out in the big city, without hotels and the accompanying hassle. It's not practical for us, though, so day-trips will suffice.


sage said...

Big cities are great to visit. But I did like Pittsburgh. When I moved there, I woke up every morning at 5 AM, when the buses started running.

geri said...

I love living in the city where everything is walking distance to us, great when prices of gas is high or when cabin fever set in. Having lived in the Philippines where a cacophony of crowing roosters, barking dogs, loud tricycles were 24/7, where we live is very quiet compared to what I have been used to for 30 years.

Here's to your family getting that weekend apartment in the urban jungle =)

Murf said...

When are you doing a blog entry about the goings on in Wisconsin? Or have you and I just haven't seen it?

Ed said...

Murf - I just haven't had the muse for writing about politics. I think I am still burnt out after the election three years ago.