Fear of the Big City

by phil on Sunday May 15, 2005 10:10 AM

I'm scared of moving to the Big City.

A move to the City is trading up. You move to the City for tastier food, a more sophisticated culture, a larger dating scene, and greater financial prospects. But isn't this just greed?

Every human desire motivates pursuit, but every pursuit is always a departure from what you have now. An old wise-saying is "wisdom is knowing how to control your wants." I agree. The constant pursuit of desire will make you perpetually hungry.

A move to the Big City (like San Francisco), represents the consummate greed. I observe colleagues who've moved to the City, and they behave with this hunger. So-and-so just got a $1,000/mo. apartment in the Marina over-looking the ocean. He just furnished it with stuff he bought from IKEA ($1,000) and The Apple Store ($300 iPod, $2,000 dual G5 Mac). Parking is $100/mo., plus there are the new expenses for his new car. Tuesday he's taking a babe to a concert ($100+). Gas prices make his commute to his high-tech job in Mountain View about $50/wk.

The newly minted yuppie just graduated out of college, unsure of what he wants in life, but sure of his hunger for the City life. Hence he trades up for a $60,000 software sales job, without consideration of whether he will like the job or whether it's meaningful.

From my experience, trading-up is irresistable once the process begins. During the dot-com days, my business partner and I rented a $2,000/mo. loft in La Jolla, and we couldn't help spending more money to feed it. There was a refrigerator to fill, walls to be adorned with artwork, spaces for TVs that needed cable. Then, when you live in such a glamorous environment, you have to accessorize yourself with an equally glamorous lifestyle: expensive drinks, cars, and flights to random-ass places. Our savings disappeared in two months.

So my fear, in moving to San Francisco, is entering into a financial treadmill. Going to the City would be concomitant with "going for broke." If I go to zero, then I automatically become a wage slave. And becoming a wage slave would be a personal tragedy. Becoming a wage slave immediately compromises any plans I have for following my passions or a meaningful existence.

To generalize my fear, I'm also scared of extremely enticing opportunities. When I'm presented with something that has a set of features so stunningly tasty, I tremble. I tremble with the knowledge that the opportunity will induce ridiculous sacrifice and compromise. This is also based on my experience of having killed myself over and over for some golden pie-in-the-sky.

And the golden pie, once ingested, will not make your soul shine.


Lin said on May 15, 2005 12:00 PM:

I say go for it.

"Going to the City would be concomitant with 'going for broke.'" ..
or just a better chance to exercise self-control/financial responsibility. I guess it's my perspective that if you're feeling weak in a personality trait, that it's that much better of a thing to be thrown out of your comfort zone.
.. but you have to go with the right mindframe, and assess if self-control/financial responsibility is really what you want to 'better'. If it's not, then you're right, you probably shouldn't go for the mere possibility of putting yourself into a worse situation than you began. There's nothing wrong with living the 'minimalist life', but going to a big city can teach you how truly self-sufficient you can be with a few things while having the benefit of everything-else right at your feet. Plus, a big-city gives you an opportunity to be even more selective while finding the best possible deals. Its about the mindframe.. if you go expecting to save vs. spend. I write this because I can identify with your concern having moved to Washington DC from a somewhat small city, but have discovered DC to truly be a place I can enjoy and not go bankrupt at the same time. :)

Philip Dhingra said on May 15, 2005 12:26 PM:

That's great that you've managed that. Ideally, I think your situation is what I would want. I love all the benefits of the city, and I don't really have anything against them. Managing the inevitable costs seems to be the scary part.

How do you do that? How do you resist the temptation to go to a bar whenever the invitation is given? How do you feel okay living in the kind of apartment that $500/mo. would afford in the City?

Lin said on May 15, 2005 7:57 PM:

You know, I just realized I really put my foot in my mouth. In other words, what I wrote is a perspective that I can see as wise, but not directly applicable for myself (so, in hindsight, who am I to speak?). In all honesty, I can go to a bar and not worry about financial worries because, being a 'lady', I guess I have some advantage. I also happen to live in an extremely nice apartment because my univ. picks up the bill (granted on *my* loans). Ha.. you picked two key questions that really made me have to revoke my previous statement; however however however.. at the same time.. I am making money in a job, and managing to not spend a large portion of it (saving everything that I can *now* that I would be normally paying to have available for a future payment), so in that respect, I am still managing to live within my means. . spending far less than I actually have available. Living overseas was definitely a lesson in frugalness, and it basically comes down to assessing your *needs* and everything else should be considered splurging. . finding friends who have this attitude also helps . . because it's certainly not necessary to be spending money all of the time to be satisfied with what life has to offer. Ok.. so I'm certainly not enlightening you to anything here (common sense I think), hehe, so-I'ma-end-it. Good luck with your decision!

molli said on May 21, 2005 12:05 PM:

i understand what you are feeling. i'm struggling with it too. i'm struggling with the fact that we are so constantly distracted and greedy with desire that we miss the whole point of our experience here on earth! to love and be loved and to use our passions to better the world experience for everyone. that's what i've decided to do. then i will never look back with regret. i'm 29 and full of life and intention yet depressed and confused.
i've done the big city thing and i've done the small city thing. i've had money and no money. i've lived as a wage slave. it sucks you slowly. what is life about???

Philip Dhingra said on May 22, 2005 11:03 AM:

This conversation about moving to the city has been floating around me for about a week now and has generated some interesting thoughts and input.

I recall one thing someone mentioned to me, a while back, about how some of his friends who are writers just kept moving around which prevented them from developing a reputation in a particular locale. They went to SF, then to LA, then to NY, but never in any place did their roots settle. This guy, on the other hand, stuck it out in the Palo Alto area for years, without much results, but eventually, he developed a reputation for being an important voice in Silicon Valley, and is now a well established editor, and even a trustee of our local community college district.

Another thing, is that the City isn't all gravy, which is obvious. The noise pollution is huge, and is emblematic of the epinephric lifestyle in the City. Whenever I've been to SF, even when I lived there, I rarely ever strolled around. I've always marched from one location to the next. Why? I don't know, it's an urban jungle I guess, and survival of the fittest, and if you can't hack it, then gosh darnit sack up, and become somebody, grrrrraaaaaaaaaaargh!

At the moment, I'm leaning toward staying where I am now, and only move when something really compelling brings me there, like if I became a female, and people bought me drinks, and my school then paid for my housing =)

thompson_gunner said on May 23, 2005 9:47 AM:

I say go for the big city, Phil. As you get older/married/with children, living in a city becomes less attractive. Do it now while you're young.

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