The Contradictions of City Life

We like to say we go to cities for the freedom: Jobs, culture, excitement. And yet living and working in one, you exhibit more herd-like behavior than one does in the country. 

I’ve lived in both, and for the last two years have been back in the city. And I’m not knocking those who enjoy urban living, but it’s full of contradictions that I personally find unfulfilling. 

Maybe when I was younger, I loved city life more. Now, in my mid-thirties, I realize that it might not be for me. 

Contradiction: Thousands and thousands of people meet crushing loneliness. How can you be so saturated in humanity but feel so isolated? How do all of these people and all of this stuff going on make you so depressed? This has been a recognized phenomenon for some time, and no one has a satisfactory answer. 

My take is that populations that are a) too large and b) too diverse have low trust and cohesion. It’s simple. If you feel littlenperceived connection to that teeming mass of humanity that seems almost too big, you won’t make the effort to get to know them. Because why bother? They’re probably transients anyway, here today, somewhere else tomorrow. 

Contradiction: Jobs versus cost of living. I came to the city for work, and now realize I’d have been better off financially staying unemployed in the country. Everything is expensive and out-of-whack in American urban areas when it comes to the price of real estate, or even rent. That nice paycheck? Half to two-thirds gone towards rent or mortgage. And for what? Subpar schools and a long commute? Crime? The incentives are heavily skewed. 

Contradiction: Culture versus herd mentality. Despite the panoply of different people–which in and of itself leads to isolation–everyone thinks and acts much the same. Urbanites criticizes rural folk for being “backwards” and “close-minded,” but you will find fewer bubbles of intolerance bigger than in cities. Like the country, the cities attract a certain type. And that’s fine! Like-minded people are free to congrats wherever they please. I just wish they weren’t so pretentious about it. 

Contradiction: People love cities, but leave for a simpler life…and bring the city problems with them. Every urban area has transplants who go to a rural, low-tax area and promptly vote for the policies that drove them out of their city in the first place. I noticed this vis-à-vis Massachusetts residents moving to New Hampshire and slowly turning it into northern Massachusetts. It is maddening. 

Cities are fun to visit, but personally not for me. Even suburbs are a bit too hive-minded and holier-than-thou about it. Give me the countryside any day. Now, if only there were jobs there…

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