I think I’m having a midlife crisis. Or at least, the same issues I’ve been struggling with for the past 10 years are rearing their heads. Again.
10 years ago I wanted to live and work in a small town. I would have been thrilled to live in and work in a midsized town, something with a population of 40 000 or less, some old Victorian homes, cracked pavement, ditches instead of sidewalks, and a place where Canadian Tire was a civic institution, rather than another big box on the horizon.
At least three times a year I want to pack up and move to a small town. Sometimes it’s three times a week. (see A little bit Country, a little bit Rock and Roll)
I’m working in the Greater Toronto Area, population nearly 4 million folks, all crammed into subdivisions, apartments and streets. I am sorry suburban folk (standard Canadian apology), but subdivisions make me ill.
I panic when I see treeless skies, and artificial line-ups of monster homes, double car garages and huge drive ways. The suburbs are not a walkable community. They are not a community in any real sense because the folks who live there spend their days inside their monster homes watching big screen TV. I could go on about the evils of subdivisions (poor transit access, consumer culture at its worse, drain on natural resources) but I won’t.
Other than to say I can’t live in one.
I live in an apartment. Which is not really the same thing. Yes, I am ‘crammed’ in beside my neighbours. But I talk to them every day when we pass in the elevator. I live in a building with a strong community. Everyone talks to each other. All the time. We chat about the weather, property maintenance, the changes in the laundry room or visitor’s parking. We talk about food, kids and dogs. We talk about what happened the last time the cops/ fire department/ paramedics were here. Because it’s that kind of building. We are all rough around the edges here. (see White Trash vs. Day of Pink)
We moved into this building because it was close to my family – then they moved to a small town nearly two hours away, three weeks after we moved here. Go figure.
So, we’re here, with really no one else. Sure, we have all kinds of acquaintances. But no family, or real friends. Why do we stay?
Access to jobs? Check. But, our jobs can be portable, if we’re willing to trade off making money for not needing as much money in a smaller community. This trade off means more time with the kids, less work, less money, and less security. Are we willing to start over completely? You bet.
So why are we here?
Access to culture and post-secondary institutions? This is actually a big one in my life. But, when you’re dealing with traffic that can paralyze a city (and your life) a simple 20 minute commute can take 2 hours and leave you sick with a migraine.
My sister likes to remind me that an ‘average’ commuting time of 45 minutes (with moderate traffic) translated to a rural setting means you’ve driven to the next county. Two hours of driving means you’ve driven partway across the province. The day I spent two hours driving home from work? It means I’ve driven 22 kilometers. That’s 13.67 miles. In TWO HOURS. No wonder I had a migraine.
So why are we here?
Healthcare. This is what Canada is famous/ infamous for. But healthcare is what my family needs.
We live a less than a 20 minute drive (without traffic) to FIVE major hospitals that deal with our super-special needs. I am 15 minutes (without traffic) from Canada’s best children’s hospital. Our team of medical professionals – occupational therapists, physiotherapists, really awesome pediatricians, doctors and nurses is phenomenal.
The night baby Dunk woke up barking like a baby seal? I was at my choice of hospital (I drove past two) in 30 minutes. (At 2 AM there were no cars on the roads.) Dunk saw a pediatrician who confirmed croup and sent us on our way with a dose of steroids to keep his airways open. I live in a healthcare surplus. I can pick and choose my providers and institutions. I am acutely aware of this luxury.
But, really, if we’re looking at commuting times of up to two hours, I could just live a couple hundred kilometers away, and drive through rolling farmland and forests, rather than staring at the rear end of a dump truck for two hours.