It’s been a few weeks now, and I’m finally adjusting to living in the burbs once more. I grew up in them, so you’d think it would be an easy transition, but oddly I’ve found it’s taking a bit of extra adjusting. Apparently all those years living in downtowns and big cities gave me some odd habits and expectations I need to unlearn, although some are easier than others. It has to happen though, because there are real differences I need to adjust to, and because this is an intro you all know I’m about to list them, so why don’t we cut to the chase?
People Are Friendly
Now I’m not trying to say that everyone who lives in the heart of a big city is an asshole. That’s only specifically true of Dallas, and even then just the people who live in the Uptown District. What I mean is that when you live in a city, there’s a big emphasis on not engaging with anyone who tries to talk to you. Don’t kick homeless people out of the way or anything, but generally you keep your eyes forward and ignore anyone who tries to approach, because at best its and aggressive busker and at worst it’s an outright scam or threat. The idea of greeting a stranger on the street becomes ludicrous, and you learn to lock in your stare and perfect your body language to say “Do not approach.”
As you might imagine, in the suburbs this kind of behavior makes you seem like, to use the clinical term, an “asshole.” People love to run, jog, and take their dogs out in my neighborhood. The first day I walked Dr. Winston, I ran into like five other people who were all out with their pets, all of whom waved and said hello, a few even asking about Dr. Winston. I nearly ignored most of them, it took a conscious effort to force myself to stop and say hello back. And that’s weird, because if you’ve met me in person at a con then you know I’m a pretty gregarious dude. My street-stranger habits were just deeply ingrained, and now I’m having to make an effort to fix them.
There’s an HOA
So this is a new one to me. I’ve mentioned before, but I grew up in a small town with a lot of country elements, a big one being that people did what they damn well pleased with their land. A few months ago I went home to a family party where we drank in the front yard, sang bad karaoke on the back porch, and then lit a big ass bonfire in a field. None of which was overseen or cared about by anyone, because the nearest neighbor A) Lived some distance off, and B) Was right there with us drinking. All of that is to say that I’m very used to the style of property ownership where you do as you like and post signs about Smith and Wesson about what people who come calling without invitation can expect.
Look, my past can’t buck every Texas stereotype.
Anyway, I was debating an above-ground pool purchase down the road, when a friend rightfully pointed out to me that I should check with the HOA to make sure that’s okay first. And he was right, but wow, I’m a little embarrassed by how much that threw me for a loop. Even more so as I realized that if I wanted to do anything, from adding a decoration to the front of the house to trying some new paint, there was an authoritarian body I had to check with to get permission first. To their credit, I haven’t actually dealt with the HOA yet, and they might all be perfectly reasonable people. Still, the idea that I’ve finally achieved the big “adult” goal of owning a house only to be met with a group overseeing my decision making process regarding that house is strange to me.
I’m sure it will shake out well in the end, with one caveat: if they tell me I can’t go balls-out nuts on Halloween decorations, I will charm my way into a leadership position on their board and then tear it all down from the inside. Nobody puts my giant inflatable Jack-o-lantern in the corner.
Connecting to the Community Takes Work
I’ve pretty much known people in every apartment building I lived in. Not at first, of course, but over time you start seeing familiar faces in the mail room, have a nice chat on the elevator, and generally begin to feel connected to the community of those around you. I sort of expected something similar out here too, since I remember knowing all my neighbors pretty well as a kid. What I’d forgotten was that of course I knew my neighbors; I went to school with most of their kids, so there was an inherent connection there. Now that I’m older, it’s a very different experience. Everyone is in their own homes, with no shared facilities like a gym or mail room to chat in, and people do not hang around outside in a Texas summer, aside from the dog walking and exercise.
As a result of all this, I really don’t know anyone in my new town yet. Now that’s not exactly a dire situation, I still have friends from downtown Dallas who will make the 30 minute trek out to see me, but as someone used to living with a sense of community it is an issue I want to fix. So I’ve been trying to go to local events, meet other folks with similar interests, and overall become more a part of this town. It would be nice if they made an app like Tindr, except for adults in new towns looking for folks with similar interests, but I think we all know it would almost immediately be used for fuckin’, and at that point you’ve just made Tindr again.
I don’t think this one is going to see a quick conclusion, there’s not a fast way to meet everyone and get involved. However, at least knowing it will require work gives me the kick in the ass to get the work done. I’ll keep going to the local events and participating in anything nearby and fun to try and become a part of this town. Hell, if there’s not enough stuff, maybe I’ll put together my own event. So if you live north of Dallas and a mad-eyed giant comes knocking on your door, telling you about an outdoor block Power Hour he’s planning, maybe roll with it.
If nothing else, it won’t be boring!