I wholeheartedly embraced our great, big city life in Philadelphia. Mike can attest to this. Every week was about discovering new restaurants, bunkering up in a favorite dive bar, or tracking events to attend on sites like Uwishunu. It initially wasn't always like this though.
Between being surprisingly selected to complete my two-year Teach For America placement in Philly straight out of college (Philly wasn't my first or even second choice city when I applied #awkward) and this city also being what I referred to as "Mike's territory" (he spent his whole life growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs), I felt like a fish out of water. Though I considered his friends my own, I didn't want to just depend on my boyfriend when it came to my social life. While I wasn't drastically far from my home on Long Island, with enough traffic it could (and still does) feel like lightyears away at times, making it even more tough on those hard days I wanted to just be with my family.
But during that first year, Philly eventually began to feel like neutral ground. Mike lived at home, about 50 minutes away, and I lived in an apartment in the Bella Vista section of the city so I was on my own a lot of the time to meet new people, explore new places, and see what these crazy sports fans were all about (Tip: never wear a Yankees shirt out on a Philly street while it's baseball season, or ever really. Learned that lesson REAL quick the hard way). Year one was when my own friendship with Philly began, and I was ecstatic to share with Mike what I had come to discover on my own. It was always funny to me when friends from out of town would come visit and say, "Wow, Philly is actually awesome."
Actually? As if it were hard to believe?
But I took those kinds of remarks as compliments because in a lot of ways, I knew what they meant. I also came to learn what a hidden gem Philly really was. It's no surprise that in the last few years, Philly has been put on the map in various Top 10 lists for dining, shopping, tourism - you name it. I had fallen in love with this city so much that I even chose to get married here instead of opting to head back to Strong Island. I had more than just accepted it; I had embraced the fact that this city was my new home.
So when it came time to buying our first house, I wasn't too thrilled at the idea of potentially "trekking" out to the burbs. Nah, not for me. I'm good right here in my studio space and my 50 yard walk to Morning Glory, Whole Foods + Fine Wine & Spirits, but thanks! And we didn't have to make the trek. We could buy in the city and it was something we seriously considered, but as the search went on, it started to become clear that for what we wanted and the budget we needed to stick to, buying in the 'burbs just made more sense for us. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the reality of what this meant. Philly was not only my Switzerland, but living in the city was where I felt most alive. Sure, I always enjoyed a day trip here and there to surrounding towns, like a quick time out from the hustle and bustle. But I'd always be itching to get back within a few hours, to walk up and grab a pie at Santucci's, or to meet our other city dwelling friends for a Sunday Funday at any of the Center City bars of our choosing.
Well, one year later, here we are settled into our new town, everyone's town - Havertown. And I love it. I love our home and I love our neighborhood even more. But it hasn't been all bells and whistles. It's been eye-opening, it's been hard, and I still miss our city life terribly at times. But I've found some extra space in this heart of mine for a different kind of place, and a different kind of life, without having to let go of the city girl I know will always be there.
We've learned a lot this year. Some things more serious than others, some pros and cons, but all in all, below is a pretty good Top 10 of #RachNDMikedotheburbs Year One.
1. You are going to miss things, and it's going to suck at times. While we only live about 25-30 minutes away and do make a point to get to the city a good amount, it's inevitable we will miss things. Random happy hours, brunches, dinners, coffee talks, tv viewings...you get the picture. This has probably been the most difficult part for both Mike and I.
2. Sleeping in an empty apartment in the city > sleeping in an empty home in the suburbs. The first few times Mike traveled for work, I was convinced I'd be starring in the next blockbuster horror film titled: "Ding Dong! You're Dead."
3. Create New Traditions. One Sunday afternoon at our house, Mike asked me to go for a walk. A walk? Why? Did we need to talk about something? Turns out we didn't; he just literally wanted to take a walk! These neighborhood strolls have now become our Sunday tradition, something I look forward to now at the end of each week. It's encouraged us to come up with new traditions involving our life here.
4. God Bless our parents who kept our houses clean all those years WITH multiple kids. Keeping an entire house clean with just two people in it is no joke. Can someone please tell me WHERE all this dust even comes from?
4a. Per #4 above, invest in a roomba. Thanks to our Facebook friends for convincing us to take the plunge on this one. This guy has become our new best bud (so much so we refer to him as Buddy).
5. If they invite you, just go! I remember thinking when we got invited to a neighbor's bbq during our move weekend that we shouldn't go. I thought to myself it was probably just a pity invite and we had stuff to be getting done anyway. Looking back, I know that I reacted this way because I was feeling nervous. Nervous we wouldn't fit in, nervous I'd say the wrong thing to the wrong person. But we went. And guess what? Everything was fine! Great, actually. Each opportunity we've had to meet new people in our neighborhood, we've made a conscious effort to just say yes if we can make it work and it's allowed for some awesome new friendships already.
6. Suburbs shopping > city shopping. At least when it comes to getting stuff for your home. Also because #parking. But Lord knows I love and miss me a good boozy brunch at Parc followed by a "quick" stroll down the shops on Walnut St...
7. Always account for the unexpected - seriously. We heard this probably a million times before we moved into our home. Within the last year, multiple things have either gone wrong or issues have come up. Clogged pipes, flooding, etc. We even had a tree fall on our property, people! You literally cannot account for something like that.
8. Living out here has forced us to become more strategic shoppers and dare I say even better cooks?! The idea of having to get in my car and drive anywhere for anything at anytime after 6:00pm sounds less than appealing...
9. Plan your free time. I'm aware of how strange that statement sounds but often times, social calendars don't always lend to spontaneity. And in the case of being new homeowners in the height of wedding season, baby season, everyone is celebrating something season means a full calendar of events that quickly take up our weekends. We've found it helps to intentionally plan out even our free time so that when we are "free" we are doing just that. Free to get things done at the house, free to explore different neighborhood spots, or free to do what we do best: sit on our couch, order pizza, and drink beers.
10. Last but not least, we've swapped out winter mice and cockroaches for spiders, squirrels, rabbits, foxes, and an unusually high number of birds that enjoy nesting on our front porch. Good times.
Stay tuned for Year 2!