Or, thoughts on San Francisco one year out.
We’ve moved from SF to Pittsburgh about a year ago, or from Big City to Small City.
upsides and downsides
Everything in Pittsburgh is cheaper! Housing, the big one, is about 20-40% the cost of SF. Food and Stuff and Services are maybe 80-90% the cost. Hiring people (e.g. a nanny) is maybe 75% of the cost. These all help; especially housing.
Meeting people is easier. People are less busy, they’re more likely to say hi to you or come to your thing even if it’s nothing special.
Shopping is easier. The grocery store or the Target is never that busy. The drug store doesn’t have everything in locked cabinets.
Drivers are nicer. There’s less traffic. The city’s smaller, sort of, so in some sense walking is easier; though there’s maybe not as much within 5, 10, or 15 minutes from my door.
People don’t steal stuff as much. I’ve left my garage open accidentally and all my bikes were still there hours later. And fewer people having crises means I’m even-more-rarely scared in public.
Public transport isn’t as good. Navigation is a challenge, especially if you’re new to the city.
There aren’t as many World Class Things: museums, restaurants, shows, etc. But we didn’t go to them much anyway.
So there’s a couple downsides, and a lot of upsides, to living in Small City. So why move to Big City? My hypothesis is there are two types of people who do:
- people who have to - usually for career or family reasons
- people who choose Hindered Living
In college, a couple friends and I came up with this idea. You know Assisted Living homes? Where people who are old and can’t quite keep up can get some help with food or cleaning or whatever? Well, what’s the opposite? It’d be Hindered Living: a home where life is deliberately made harder so that you’re pushed to get better.
Some examples were: a fridge with an electromagnet that gets harder and harder to open so you have to build stronger muscles, a grid of ceiling lights that work like a Lights Out puzzle so you have to solve it in order to go to bed. Over time, you’d naturally get stronger or quicker (at Lights Out at least) because you’re forced to. This would of course be opt-in, and probably full of young able people striving to improve.
we already choose this
Sounds comical, but people make this choice all the time: big cities are hindered living. If you don’t have to live in a big city, doing so is a sign that you’re willing to try life on slightly-harder mode.
And you do get a couple benefits of Hindered Living:
- you can’t drive everywhere, you have to walk/bike/bus, so you get fitter (you can do this in small towns too, but it correlates with big cities)
- everything’s expensive, so you have to be really good at your job, so you can earn a higher salary (yes 1000 asterisks here but still)
- doing simple things like “getting your kid into day care” require pulling strings, networking, etc, so you get good at People Skills
Ironically though, that’s not most of the benefit; the main benefits are social. You meet other people who have chosen Hindered Living.
And if you’re the kind of person who would do this, this is a major draw! If you want to run marathons, that’s great - your friends will be marathon runners too. If you are a competitive chess player, I know you can find other chess champs who are in your league. And especially if you’re dating, if you like to go mountain climbing every weekend, it’s great to be able to find someone else who does! (or at least who won’t make fun of you that much.)
so where does that leave us
Having moved from Big City to Small City, we’re choosing a lower difficulty level for now. And I’m glad we have. Parenting a small baby is the hardest thing in the world, for me at least, so I’m glad we’ve got the ability to tell the rest of the world to chill out a little bit.
Does this hurt my self-image? As a real go-getter who can survive and thrive on Hard Mode? yes, of course… but maybe that part of me needs to relax a little as well. After all, you don’t get to go to Extra Good Heaven by being a rich charming mountain-climber.
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