Well-educated people who move to cities are expected to become rather cosmopolitan. Literally rubbing shoulders with dozens of cultures while simultaneously participating in our global economy, these people quickly surpass the limitations of their youth. They learn to interact and live peacefully with people who are quite different from them. They eat stuff that their mothers can’t pronounce, which contain ingredients not sold in suburban grocery stores. Their worldviews are stretched, shattered, and reformed to fit the big world in which they are now a part.
It’s been a little over a year since I started living, working, shopping, socializing, relaxing, and church-going almost exclusively in Philly, and in some ways I’ve become or am becoming one of these cosmopolitan people. However, more than this, I’ve noticed my worldview not expanding as much as it is contracting. What might have once been a worldview has gradually developed into a city-view. Places shape us deeply and affect our paradigms – Philly is affecting mine.
Anyway, given this realization and my recent Philly-versary, I thought it would be fun to reflect on the various ways that this place has warped my logic. In no particular order:
1. I sometimes forget what it’s like to be in a building that is less than 10 years old…
2. …or on a street that was built after cars were invented.
3. I’ve developed a deep mistrust for strip malls and chain restaurants.
4. I’ve gotten pretty good at the transportation logic puzzle (“Should I drive?” “Where will I park?” “Should I bike?” “Will it rain?” “How will I carry my stuff?” “Should I take the subway?” “Do I have enough tokens?” “Is walking an option?” “What about a cab?”), but sometimes I wish that I didn’t have to play it every time I leave my house.
5. I’ve grown accustomed to all of the smells, and all the trash everywhere.
6. My physical comfort zone has expanded, as my standards for what constitutes as a “bad neighborhood” have shifted dramatically (and for the better!).
7. Recently I was outside of the city and hungry. I drove around for a while looking for “something that I couldn’t find in Philly,” until I realized that that’s nearly impossible.
8. When I go more than a day or two surrounded only by white people speaking English, I feel mildly uncomfortable.
9. I think “ugh, tourists” on a regular basis (usually after almost hitting them with my car or bike).
10. It’s become normal for me to regard neighborhoods other than my own as distant or novel, even if they’re literally blocks away.
11. Likewise, my default small talk is to ask people about their neighborhoods.
12. I’ve come to expect and prepare for petty theft. And mice.
13. I can’t remember the last time I saw a squirrel, though I did encounter a raccoon the other night. It made me more nervous than it would have if it was a person rooting through my neighbor’s trash. Wildlife is fascinating, and terrifying.
14. I’m so used to one-way streets that I become extremely confused/apprehensive when cars in the next lane are driving toward me.
15. “Getting away from it all” usually just means going to the suburbs for a few hours.