My brother in law said last night, we’re at the point now where all the years look weird and science fiction-y. 2023 is no exception. The years now seem like they should be in science fiction, probably because we grew up on the mid-20th century sci-fi where this century was science fiction. It isn’t that 2023 is that far from 1993 or even 1983, it’s that 2023 was so far from 1953, when so much of the sci-fi that would define the genre was created. It’s given us the perspective that 2023 should be the future, and yet it feels like we’re still stuck in the past in more ways than I like to think about.
Take, for example, where I am now, the Main Line of Philadelphia. I’m starting 2023 in a new home, in a suburb not that unlike where I grew up. Yet this area is mired in the past in completely non-functional ways. Instead of moving into the future of non-vehicular transportation, it lacks sidewalks, bike lanes or direct routes to shopping and stores. The trains only run once per hour into Philadelphia from here, even though the SEPTA line is perfectly serviceable. Coming from New York City, it feels like I’ve moved into the post white-flight suburbs of 1973, a place designed to give every little traditional family unit their own Pennsylvania stone house, surrounded by exactly 0.27 acres of yard, with a shared driveway in which to park their individually owned vehicles. It’s a very twentieth century vision. It doesn’t feel 2023 here.
Living here has, however, given me an entirely new hobby. In many women moving to the suburbs, this would be baking or gardening or crafting, hobbies that take advantage of the space differential between an apartment and a full sized house. My new hobby is instead just complaining about the suburbs. It’s not necessarily a productive hobby, but it does seem to be getting me through the first few months of this very different existence. I’ve spent the last twenty years since leaving UBC campus living in cities that acknowledged the existence of the future, even if they didn’t fully embrace the change that will be needed to meet it. Cities are places of ideas, after all – they exist to provide a physical space for abstract concepts like trade or art. I do not feel like the suburbs – especially these well established and well heeled suburbs I live in now – acknowledge a future. Instead, these townships would very much prefer to keep everything as much the same as possible, on behalf of the same people who have benefited from that sameness for the past century, and I will complain endlessly about feeling like I’m locked in the past.
The move to the Main Line has made my life easier though. There’s a dozen little ways every day that I find myself marveling at the sheer ease of existence. This house feels huge to start with, big enough that we were able to host my sister and her family and it was still comfortable for seven people to be here. We can park in our own driveway so we can use the car consistently to grocery shop. We don’t have to hear noise from outside our own home, with the exception of a rare truck or low flying plane (no more cars with jacked up sound systems! no more cars with ringing phones hooked up to those sound systems blasting the T-Mobile ring jingle at 3am!). The house has all these storage spaces so I never open a closet to have five things fall down on me. The house is only 72 years young, not over a century old, so the pipes allow for a “garburator”. I have my own washer dryer in the basement along with a second fridge. The list goes on and on.
I therefore have this fantastic opportunity to shift all this extra energy into actual hobbies and self development, instead of just using it to complain and mope. So I shall consider what I actually want to get out of 2023, and how I want my first full year in this new existence to go. I know I want my life here to be more authentic, to start with. I want to build off the sense of self I’ve been working on for the past decade, and go into this change with that intact. I was so insecure when I moved to NYC and kept feeling like I needed to change myself to fit in with other “grownups”, and now I’m realizing that being myself is what makes people want to engage with me (whole other post, I know). So how do I extend that concept of “being myself” into this whole new existence and lifestyle?
And how do I apply all the time and energy that is no longer going into just living in NYC? Before COVID, I looked outside my home for my day to day existence. Now, I actually live in a place which is designed for me to look inward. Combined with my permanent work from home status, I’m in a completely different mental and physical place and will need to adjust for that.
This is what I am kind of working through, these first couple days of 2023 and last couple days before I resume work full time again. Does a re-assessment of how I engage with my existence include writing and resuming this blog, for example? I haven’t been terribly regular here since 2007, back when I had this whole thing on the Livejournal platform. It’s been a while. But hey, I live in the future now. Maybe using this platform to sort out my thoughts is a step in looking forward.