"When god was young - He made the wind and the sun - And since then - It's been a slow education" - David Berman
I've been going to the suburbs a lot lately. Sometimes on my own, just to explore a new area. Other times for my second job, doing beer tastings for an importer.
The suburbs that I knew, growing up in and around Denver, felt bland and dull. A wasteland of fast food chains, strip malls, gas stations, and pawn shops. I remember a suffocating lack of imagination that numbed the senses.
But some of these suburbs, outside of Chicago, feel different. There's a definite cosmetic difference. Many of them have the look and feel of a lively small town. They have a main street with shops and bars and cafes. The sidewalks are filled with people. It feels like there's life being lived there.
And as I visit Libertyville and Lake Bluff and Geneva and La Grange, I wonder if maybe the suburbs never were as terrible as I remember them. Maybe I'm the one that's changed. Maybe I was suffocating from my own lack of imagination.
I turned 40 this past summer. I've been a late bloomer in a number of ways throughout my life. Another way to put it is that I'm a slow learner. And after years of working in restaurants and bars, I'm just now preparing to make the shift into a professional career.
I'm excited about the challenges in my immediate future. And it feels great to know that I'm setting myself up for a wide range of options down the road. I'm excited to know that I'll have a chance to help hard working small business owners grow their dreams. And I'm excited to know that I'm moving towards a point in my life that will include more financial stability than I've known in the past.
And while none of that is inevitable, the likelihood of the transition and the new found confidence that I have in my long term future, probably plays into my changing perspective on the suburbs and the things that I've always associated in my mind with suburban life. And while I don't know whether I'll ever find myself living in the suburbs, I suddenly find myself considering a lot of what I'd for so long written off.
Home ownership won't happen this year. But in five years? Probably. And then there's the big question. The question that I've always been too scared to really honestly ask myself. Do I want a family?
I've been scared for a couple of reasons. I knew that, as a server, I didn't have the financial security that I would want to have for my family. And I didn't want to get locked into a restaurant management position that I'd feel obligated to stick to for the sake of knowing that the bills were paid.
I was also scared because nothing in my romantic history suggested that anybody was in a hurry to create a family with me. And nothing in that history would suggest that I was even capable of a long term relationship. As of my mid-thirties, I'd had only one relationship that lasted more than a few months. And that lasted only a year. Not exactly enough time to build a foundation for a family.
But I feel different now. I've had a relationship that lasted three years. Most of that was wonderful, and even the parts that weren't wonderful were incredibly illuminating. I know myself better today, than I did even a year ago. I still have plenty to learn. I'm still clumsy with my emotions. I still get frustrated and scared. But it all feels manageable.
So now I'm starting to ask myself that big question. Do I want a family? I think about my age. But that doesn't have to be an obstacle. If I take care of myself, there's no reason I couldn't be a healthy and active part of my children's lives. Of course, since I'm single, there's also the question of a mother. But those are secondary questions. The first question is whether I want to have children.
I went home to Denver last month. I have nieces and nephews ranging in age from 2 months to 19 years. As I spent time with them, I wondered how I, for so long, associated suburbs only with fast food chains, strip malls, gas stations, and pawn shops. How did I forget the kids running through water sprinklers. The awkward adolescent dates at bowling alleys. The soccer games and summer barbecues. How did that well of life seem bland and dull.
I've been a late bloomer in a number of ways throughout my life. Another way to put it is that I'm a slow learner.