I have been struggling pretty much for the past year since moving to the Twin Cities (from a four-year stint of rural living) with, well, living in the city.
The traffic. The $5 errand turned to $30 entry fee any time I stop by a store. The way time disappears without a trace. The traffic. The seemingly endless race to get from here to there to here and back again. The endless array of options which yields an endless array of overwhelmed and less creative minds.
These are just a few things I’ve had to adjust to living in a city such as this. Sure, there are pluses about living somewhere where you can basically have anything you want anytime you want it: where coffee shops don’t close at 5 PM and aren’t 30 minutes away from your house. Where you can choose from any kind of culture’s traditional food that fancies you at the moment. Where you can find a farmers’ market open every day of the week. Where you can go to a class on anything you think of. Where you can join groups of likeminded people doing wonderful, likeminded things. Where you can (more easily) find a job.
These are things about the city I have learned to appreciate and that I try not to take for granted … or overdo.
There’s something I’ve noticed in myself, though, as I’ve settled into city life a bit more. I have become much lazier. I could blame this on the fact that it takes extra effort to seek out “nature,” that I have to drive to actually get somewhere serene and naturally, wildly beautiful. I could chalk my laziness up to working jobs more to make money and get by than to live an integrated life where money and work and fulfillment are all intertwined (as I was doing before during my time living/working on organic farms, at an environmental boarding school, and at a camp/retreat center). I could say that now that I am married, my partner and I tend to enable each other to be a bit lazy and watch TV shows and so it’s a biiiiiit his fault too. I could argue that I know I should always use my reusable mug (which I used to do so consciously) and bring my canvas bags to the store, but I just forget or sometimes it just isn’t easy to carry all that around.
I suppose I did just blame and chalk up and argue, didn’t I? These are real issues I’ve found developing in my time in the city that just didn’t seem to be as much of a problem when I lived more “out in the middle of nowhere.” Sure, I didn’t have the coffee shop abundance and Targets on every corner and boundless opportunities to get involved with excessively interesting people. But, I miss that simplicity that sometimes … bored me.
I have found that in the city, with all these “things” at my fingertips, I tend to relax into other outlets to entertain me. I have not been reading as much, writing as much, or even cooking as much (despite starting a blog that features some of these things). I have not been immersed in nature, inspired by life as constantly, or as active and energy-filled as I used to be. I haven’t even interacted and shared in community as much and as deeply as my prior-to-city life, despite the much larger population of people here than anywhere I’ve lived rurally the last few years.
I have been lazier, given into the barriers than exist between me and nature (even though, yes, it is all around and we are part of it too, yes).
So, I could spend much more time lamenting the fact that I live in the city and even as a young (exceedingly hip) person, I would much rather be living closer to the wild, away from all this busy-ness.
OR, I could move forward and offer a few of my own tips on how to not let city living become an excuse for laziness, for giving up on things that are most important like health, sustainability, and just plain living an enjoyable existence:
1.) Plan ahead
I shared that sometimes it feels like time completely escapes me here in the city. Whether it is the time it takes driving from point A to point B in traffic or the many things on the to-do list, I’ve found that it’s very important for me to plan ahead so that I don’t miss something that’s important to me. I have to be intentional about saying “I’m going to canoe on Lake ____ on Thursday evening.” I even have to actually schedule time for prayer/meditation/writing, or I simply will neglect it.
Something about living amongst houses and power lines more than trees and cabins seems to make me one with my computer. Sure, there are great things about computers, like being able to type out your thoughts on a blog or read fascinating pieces of information, etc. But, there’s even greater things about taking time away from any kind of screen. I have to intentionally close my computer and put it out of sight and say, for the next few hours, I am going to read, or be silent, or exercise, or cook, or any of the million other options that exist outside of computer land. As fun as Facebook can be, I always feel better, more fulfilled and accomplished when I do things that do not involve my computer. (Insert television or other electronic device in for computer here, as well! I just struggle with the computer because I don’t have other electronics around)
3.) Be with people
This can be difficult after spending, say, all day at work around people. It depends on what your job is, but I know many (or even most) folks just want to unwind after work and maaaayyybe lock themselves in a room filled with chocolate and wine. No? Well, as introverted as I can be sometimes, I find that I am most always better off after having spent a nice evening with friends rather than by myself. I believe our inherent nature is built around community and we are not meant to be solitary creatures, as much as we need our time alone. It can become easy to isolate yourself, even in the city, so just being intentional about getting out and spending real time with good people is important!