I suppose nothing about my thought process is new. I’ve contemplated these topics, and how they are interwoven into one great, big, puzzling conundrum that takes over my life for years. I believe there is no wrong answer, and there are many different paths to take, but that is the biggest trouble of all. Ultimately, when it comes down to it, we only have one life to live and what is the best way to go about living?
My ponderings and dichotomies rear their heads every time I get away. That’s the thing about the I-95 corridor: it sucks you in. It makes you believe there is no other way. Surely, it must be like that because as far as your mind can travel, you come across overpopulation, traffic, hustle and bustle, outrageous housing prices and Jones’. Oh, to keep up with the Jones’. It’s so damn hard. Especially in the humidity of 95 degree, muggy, sweat-sticks-to-your-bones summers. Who honestly enjoys that?
Surely, as my mind begins to delve deeper, always playing devil’s advocate with myself, why wouldn’t you want to live here? We have 3 international airports within a 30 minute drive. It’s a short drive to NYC, Philly, Richmond, you name it. We live and breathe our nation’s Capital. We have mountains and oceans and everything in between. We have deep-rooted, colonial history and the brick roads to prove it.
People we love live here. Our friends. Family. All keeping up with the Jones’, or trying. The desperate need and forced lifestyle of blowing all of your earnings on metro access, beltway proximity, decent schools, the right zip code, the pompousness of certain town names, and the newest and brightest shopping centers. You know what that all equals? Super-inflation, mega-traffic, depleted savings accounts, ridiculous commutes, and unfriendly communities. And what is it all for?
My theory is rather simple. Some people don’t know any better. They grew up here. Their parent’s grew up here or in a place rather similar somewhere up and down this I-95 gridlock. They went to school around here. And for all they know, this is paradise. It must be like this everywhere, and if it isn’t like this everywhere else, it mustn’t be worth living there. It’s probably crap.
You know what’s crap? Spending a quarter of a million dollars on a 3 bedroom townhome with a tiny deck for a back yard, one parking spot, and 1.5 bathrooms. It’s crap paying said mortgage knowing that there is no way you would ever raise a family in a townhome without a backyard to run wild and loose, without a driveway to hang an obligatory basketball hoop, and without a tree to build a fort. But who has 500k to buy the aforementioned American Dream?
Government employees and contractors, that’s who. Overpaid, beltway bandits who stay put because this is where the jobs are. Sadly, this American Dream is difficult to maintain for even them.
So, what in the world is a couple living on two teacher salaries doing in the Washington, DC area? Good question. I’ve got an answer for you.
We are stupid. We know better. But, this is where we grew up. This is where our friends, who are working their government and contractor jobs to cover their cost of living, have chosen to reside. We have family nearby. We’ve already surrendered to calling this place, this ugly, busy, crowded, expensive place home.
Until, we get away. I’ve spent my entire life driving the turnpikes through the absolute hideousness of Pennsylvania, the supremely boring flatlands of Ohio and up into Michigan. To the clear waters of Lake Michigan. To the friendly Midwestern accents that great you at every corner. To where “rush hour” is having to wait through one light cycle in the middle of town. No, this has always been home to me.
And so, as we are driving back to our overpriced townhouse, to see Baci and Misha because we miss them dearly, Alex asks me something I thought I’d never live to hear.
“Do you want to move to Michigan?”
“I’ve always wanted to move to Michigan.” Duh.
And our conversation begins. The most common cause of divorce among marriages? Stress about finances. Every single argument, stress, and hiccup Alex and I have in our relationship is directly related to money. Working too long, too hard to make more of it. Being stressed to the point where we need to spend it in order to relax (in the form of everything from happy hours to massages to weekend getaways). Then, the guilt and remorse of realizing that we spent money we couldn’t really afford to spend. Never having enough of it, and knowing that we will never make enough money to keep up with the Jones’ here in DC. But, because that’s what you do in DC, you spend your money on an overpriced lifestyle, we do it. Hamsters on a wheel; around and around we run.
We know that if we choose to stay here, there will be sacrifices. For example, the rate things are going, we will never be able to afford to take our children to Disney World. We won’t be able to afford to take our kids on a plane, let alone travel in the sense that makes them worldly, with vacations around the country and Europe. We won’t be able to offer them too much money for college. And playing sports will require a chokehold on our spending money. We’ll have credit card debt, because, let’s face it, our paychecks won’t cover it. But look at everything we get in return. (I’m being sarcastic, here).
So there’s that. The ultimate, impossible to digest, heartbreaking truth of the matter. If we decide to stay here, living off of the I-95 corridor, we will never have a family. Because we refuse to raise a family under the above circumstances.
Leading me full circle to my great, overarching concern. Ultimately, when it comes down to it, we only have one life to live and what is the best way to go about living? I care more about raising a family, the right way, than I do having the social hierarchy status of living the Mid-Atlantic nightmare of the nation’s Capital… childless. We’re better off searching for a more affordable American Dream.
*Filed under Personal Life*