Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Where you Live is not Who you Are....

Yesterday, Mike Chaiton wrote a blog entry commenting on my search for a new residence showing some ideological disagreement with what he believes my priorities to be. As a student of Geography with a concentration in Urban studies, I couldn't agree more with the premise of his academic argument, but certainly not with the implication that I was a part of this "New Suburbanism", or big-gas-grill-and-manicured-lawns lifestyle.

It's clear to me, however, that his approach to life in general would indeed be very different from mine. Mike, having spent some time traveling around the world, is now enjoying a brief stopover with his parents in Ottawa before continuing on to Toronto to study Epidemiology at U of T. He's single, still a student, has little in the way of accumulated possessions (having downsized several times when he traveled abroad or to school), has a steady job (but is leaving it by the end of the summer, I would assume), and has little in the way of long-term responsibilities, except to himself and his studies. Myself, I have been living with my girlfriend for well over a year now, I have two cats, I have a career (which I don't entirely enjoy, but is steady), and I have a pile of accumulated junk, since, for the first time in my life, I have a little bit of money to spend on creature comforts that I have never had before. Of COURSE we're going to make different decisions at this point in our lives.

We're on two very different paths, that is true, but to say that my "dream" is to have the two-car garage, the BroilMaster 3000 super gas grill, and a ride-on mower doesn't seem fair at all. What I disagree with is the proposition that because I am considering living in Orleans or Kanata, that I want to become like all of the "rest of them," or how we perceive people who live in these places to be. I get the impression from Mike that he believes that a neighbourhood is in part about status or an expression of personality (like the Annex or the Plateau), and that by considering a suburb, that that is also the status or lifestyle that I want to attain.

I don't think that this is any more fair than suggesting that because I currently live just to one side of Vanier that I aspire to become a drug addict or by living where I was before, in the Carlingwood area, that I aspired to be a retired old grandpa with two big-ass cars, a stamp collection, and a pension. Surprisingly for Mike, it seems that he is buying into such stereotypes and without considering who I am or what he knows about me, he has lumped me in with this stereotype of the balding man with the pot belly in plaid shorts bragging about how few weeds his lawn has compared to everyone else's. Who knows, maybe one day I will be one. But this isn't all I consider myself to be or all that I consider I can accomplish in life.

I guess I want to take this opportunity to say that I'm very happy with my life and I'm proud of what I've accomplished. I have a wonderful girlfriend and we love each other dearly, more and more every day. I have two awesome cats, Chloe and Mowgli, who are adorable and bring us much joy. My family is wonderful and have always been extremely supportive, especially my mother and sister, who have always been there for me no matter what (I now even have the pleasure of being co-workers with them, as well as family--an added bonus). I haven't lost sight of the fact that things are just things and I can do without them, but for the first time in my life, when I want something expensive, I don't have to rely on someone else or stress out about how I can possibly afford it.

Now here's the thing about the housing search. When I suggested that I didn't care which neighbourhood we looked in, we were looking for a house, I meant just that. The house can be anywhere, literally anywhere, so long as we get a house that's big enough for us for the rent we can afford to pay. We've looked at houses in the Cyrville area, in west Gloucester, in Brittannia, in Craig Henry, and considered places in Centretown and the South End, and just about everywhere in between. It's not that we want to live in Orleans or Kanata, in fact, we'd rather not be that far away from everything. But we're flexible and we want to get a pretty nice house for the money we can pay. Most of the places we've seen have been exactly like the house we live in now, which is fine, but for the sake of variety, we'd like something a little different. And maybe that means we won't be close to where all the action is and we'll need to rely more on the car, but it's not permanent.

One day, we'll be able to afford something that suits who we are a little better, without having to scrunch two people and two cats into a tiny place. If I could afford to pay $4K rent for an apartment in Greenwich Village, it would be high on my list, but I'm not a rich stockbroker. I would LOVE to be able to afford a nice 2 or 3-bedroom house in the Annex (if I was living in Toronto, that is), but at this stage in my life, I can't afford it. I would love the culture, and the lifestyle, and the artistic expression, and the fun, and if I was in the position to live in a small bachelor's apartment all by myself so I could soak all that in, I probably would. That's a part of who I am and what I like. But my life's a little bigger than just myself now, and I love that too. And I wouldn't give that up for anything.


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