Originally Posted by sibhusky
Having lived in the NYC and Philly metro areas most of my life, I have to agree, that people pretty much keep to themselves. You walk down the city streets and YOU DON'T look at anyone. I think this is self defense, because if you look at someone they may ask for money OR they may say "whatcha lookin' at!" and want to fight. This can convey the idea that metro area people are all robots. Where I am now, the mode is to say "hello" to anyone. This was the first thing I noticed when I first visited this town. Everyone even wants to help you in supermarkets. BUT, it's a small town and there's not a lot of panhandling, mugging, etc. going on. It's safer to have a smile. Does this mean people here enjoy life more? Well, they ought to, they are surrounded by glorious mountains, beautiful lakes, golf courses, great fishing and hunting, etc. BUT, they don't have all the benefits of living in a city, which many people I knew took full advantage of -- the museums, theatres, night life, extensive range of ethnic cuisine, etc. etc. Those of us who love the outdoors may not consider all that city stuff to count, but many do. Not everyone, of course. And I admit I moved to get away from my old life of commuting working commuting working, etc. I still managed to fit in 40 days of skiing a year, but that's out of 365 where I wasn't skiing, just running errands, doing housework, and going to and from the office. To escape from all that I had to quit work because you need down time just to figure out how to have fun. If your time is "booked" due to kids' gymnastics lessons, ski races, work, work, work, it's tough to philosophize. But I worked a long time and saved so I can just barely get by without too much work in my life. The earlier rat race was a needed time period in my life you might say.
It's tough to live and work in city areas. It's tough if you have a job, to have the nerve to give it up, like freefalling and you hope something stops you before you crash. It's tough if you have kids to make decisions that impact THEIR future, not just your own. The same with having a spouse. Hopefully we all at some point have the ability to decide to enjoy things while we can. My mom since my dad died, is just waiting for death. My mother-in-law doesn't even read the paper. They just ARE. I look at them and THAT is what I don't want for me, that waiting. I don't know how you avoid it, I hope that having hobbies, friends, sports, keeps me in tune with appreciating life. But until I get to their age, I won't know. I think my dad had the right idea up until the Parkinsons overtook him. Unfortunately, he was what motivated my mom and now she's left behind. My goal is for that not to happen to me.
Nice post, Sibhusky. You've addressed a number of things that I've been dealing with also.
My Dad has Parkinsons. He turned 80 this past March. He loved to ski, and although his skills were advanced intermediate, he was a natural athlete, and every year he would just start hitting his stride by the end of his annual ski trip to my brother's place in Beaver Creek. He was convinced, as was I, that if he had had the opportunity to ski all season long instead of just 10 days a year he would have been a level 9 skier in a season. He had other priorities, but he never lost his passion for skiing.
He is responsible, to a large part, for nurturing my, and my siblings, love of skiing.
I was skiing with him 5 seasons ago at Vail. As we were coming down that cat track that traverses the front side of the mountain towards the bottom, he started having trouble completing his turns. Finally he fell and couldn't get up. I helped him get his skis off and he walked down the rest of the way. It turned out that this was to be his last run, ever. Two weeks later he was diagnosed with Parkinsons, which had already started to affect his motor skills when we were at Vail.
It's hard to see that happen to someone you love.
He grew up in New Jersey, and I spent my first 12 years there and most of the rest of my teen years in Massachusetts and Connecticut. I didn't get out west for good until I was in my late 20s, but I could never go back East. I think my aversion to big cities is nothing more than not having enough personal space or elbow room. I think people in crowded places have to shut down part of their personalities just to survive. I don't care if it's Bombay, Los Angeles, New York, or New Jersey, but I'll take a small town anyday.
So I did. For six years I lived in a small town in Oregon that has no clothing stores, no movie theater, no good restaurants, no cultural advantages of any sort. It's 90 miles to the nearest Indian restaurant, which is my own personal metric of civilization. But it has almost no crime, great fishing, inexpensive housing, and a small group of like-mind people who appreciated those advantages but who didn't necessarily take them for granted.
I realized that small towns attract not only people who are tired of the undercurrent of anxiety that keeps cities on edge, but they also contain a nucleus of citizens, usually people who grew up in town and never left, who really have a problem with change in all its forms. Of course there are people all along the spectrum from Urban Refugee to Distrustful Home-grown Redneck, but those two seem to the defining groups for me.
I realized that for me the answer is in finding a balance. I never want to live in a place where I have to lock my house or my car door. I want a type of life where running errands almost always means running into at least one, and usually more people that you know well enough to say hello to. But I also want to watch films with subtitles at a local theater when the mood strikes, go to a gallery opening every now and then, and be able to spend an hour in a coffeeshop where they have funky couches and great pastries and expect you to linger when you come through the door. I want to be able to take Friday afternoon off and go flyfishing, or take Wednesay morning off and go skiing. I want to be part of a community, but a conscious community. I know that there are a few places out here where that is still possible.
My guiding principle these days, at least when I can slow down enough to remember it, is to try to become the type of change that I want to see in the world. That can be done anywhere. It requires passion, of course -- back to the original topic of the post.