Phases of City Living
February 12, 2012, Washington, DC: Do you think you might outgrow your neighborhood as you get older? Or that it suits you now that you're settled but would never have suited your younger self? Does the place you call home appeal to you as you envision yourself in various stages of life? Is it big enough to grow into once you leave behind one phase and enter the next? Are the people who live nearby all the same age or is there a wide variety of ages represented throughout your hometown?
I can't pretend to know now that this neighborhood will suit us perfectly in five, ten, twenty years, but I am heartened to see that it so far remains within the realm of possibility. Capitol Hill is full of families of all ages. Sidewalks are frequented by young parents pushing children in strollers and empty nesters who have seen their kids off to college and older couples who never had children at all. Within this diverse city, here is a neighborhood that may very well provide room for us to grow.
Some say it can't be done: that there is no way our cities can accommodate our future selves. But how can we know for certain? Provided we make a conscious choice to live small and prioritize urban access, perhaps there are city neighborhoods that will give us precisely what we need.
For now, we have faith in our cities because they've done that before. Chicago was a wonderful place to be a single graduate student, taking the El into the Loop for an afternoon in the newsroom and picking up takeout on the evening walk home. Washington is a terrific place to be newly married, renting a small apartment and spending money on new restaurants and activities rather than a whole lot of stuff. San Francisco was a great place to be a wide awake college graduate who could wake up early and stay out late, subsisting on staples like coffee and ramen.
Maybe the routines and the restaurants, the hours and the outings, would have shifted had we experienced these cities at a different phase in our lives. Maybe we'd have discovered a set of experiences we'd never even noticed there years before. Who can say for sure how we would have felt about that place or how we might someday see our city? For now, we only know that this current phase in city living, like so many that came before, is a time worth cherishing.
Have you recently entered a new phase of life? How have your routines and relationships to the places throughout your hometown changed as a result? Have you enjoyed city living in one phase of your life more so than in others? Was there a point when you decided city life was no longer a good fit?