I Need the Darkness, Someone Please Cut the Lights
In Arcade Fire’s song Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), Regine sings about the conflict between getting sucked into the suburban sprawl and the lure of the city lights. The entire album, which won album of the year in 2010, focuses on the suburbs, but this one song rings true right now since we are moving from the city out to the suburbs.
I grew up in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio and went to college in the middle of the Indiana cornfields, but most of my adult life so far has been in the concrete jungle that is New York City. I reunited with Carrie while she was living here for grad school, and if not for that, I probably wouldn’t have ever lived in a major city. Five years later, I’ve discovered that everything that drew me to the city in the first place has been overshadowed by annoyances.
Five years ago, as a single guy recently out of college, the city was energizing, the subway was exciting, and the diversity was charming. Now, as a married man with a two month old daughter, the city is draining, the subway is taxing, and the diversity is annoying.
The chorus of Sprawl II goes, “Sometimes I wonder if the world’s so small; that we can never get away from the sprawl; Living in the sprawl; Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains; And there’s no end in sight; I need the darkness, someone please cut the lights.”
I think if you’ve always lived in the ‘burbs, it’s easy to take for granted the quietness of your backyard, the ease of hopping in the car and driving to the store, and the community of a small town. But once you’ve lived in the throngs of a major city for a few years, you realize how much you miss those things.
When I worked at the NHL, one of my co-workers had lived his entire life in Manhattan. He had never played soccer on grass and didn’t even have his driver’s license because there was no reason to get one. He was a great guy, but I couldn’t imagine what that childhood must have been like.
I want Brooklyn and my subsequent kids to grow up playing soccer at the local fields on the weekends, learning how to drive when they turn 16, going to the mall with their friends, and doing all the things I used to do. I still hope they are able to grow up well-rounded with a respect for other cultures and types of people, but frankly, I don’t want them to be influenced by the many negative aspects of the city.
Now, I’m not saying that NYC (or any big city for that matter) is the only place that has problems. Every small town, every suburb, has its share of issues as well. But due to the sheer population and hodge-podge of cultures living in such close quarters, there are many more negatives than there are in the ‘burbs.
We loved our time here, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I will always believe that New York is the greatest city on earth and I think everyone should live here for at least a year. As Frank Sinatra sang, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” and I certainly think that’s true.
After four years on the Upper East Side, we chose to move to Washington Heights last summer in order to save money. We knew we wanted to start trying to have a baby, so we decided it was time to really start saving. In the past year, we got a dog, had a baby, and were able to save a good chunk for an eventual down payment, but it became apparent that city living was no longer for us. As we counted down the months and days to Brooklyn’s arrival, we knew we had to move closer to family. Fortunately, my company was gracious enough to grant my request for a transfer to the main office in Chicago.
I look forward to Brooklyn growing up with her cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents close by; to coaching my kids’ little league teams; to not having to spend every penny of vacation money on trips home to visit family; and to buying a house with a yard so we don’t have to trek to the park for some fresh air.
We will always cherish our time here, the experiences we had together, the friends we made, the preaching of Tim Keller, the amazing food, and the lessons we learned, but now it’s time to close the chapter on New York and begin our journey in suburban Chicago.