Trade pipe dreams for the suburbs

Jeremy Gordon

When you’re young, you dream of being an astronaut, a rock star, a cowboy, a Jedi Knight and so forth. Kids with imaginations don’t think about a house in the suburbs, a white picket fence, 2.5 kids and a cozy job 45 minutes away. But for millions of people in the U.S., they gave up on the former and gravitated toward the latter, moving to the suburbs to find a prosperous, happy and totally inoffensive life.

One of my older cousins did this. In my early memories I remember him rocking a mullet and listening to Pearl Jam (it’s possible this happened at different times), going to college and having a Nintendo 64 in his room, which I thought was just so cool. But eight or so years after graduation, he lives in Naperville, goes to Target on the weekends with his wife and two kids and returns to a giant house that probably cost a third of what a house in the city costs. If someone had told him 15 years ago that this is what he would be doing, how would he have reacted?

Not that suburban living is bad, even though suburbanites have the annoying tendency of saying they’re from the central city they orbit. In the suburbs, as I’ve learned in my Urban Politics class, property is cheaper, public transit is less of a hassle, crime is lower and the schools are better. It’s the American dream, but I don’t see how it could ever be a childhood one.

To me, the move to the suburbs is a final push away from your childhood, from your youth, from your pipe dreams of international fame and mystery. That’s a tad over-romantic but I can’t think of any other way to put it – moving to the suburbs is the final step in growing up. I’m speaking specifically of city dwellers who choose the suburbs, not kids who grew up there and choose to stay. It’s not a bad move; in fact, sometimes it’s necessary.

For example, the only thing I thought was half-way decent in “Juno” was the contrast between Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman: one a laid-back suburban woman ready to settle, the other a selfish adult holding onto his dreams of being a rock star. The suburban life stifled his creativity and his way of life, which is why he ended up walking out on his wife (whoops, spoiler warning). He didn’t want to give up on his dreams for the benefit of his child, which is why ultimately, he came off as a scumbag.

To some people, the move to the suburbs means giving up on your dreams; to others, it’s a healthy lifestyle choice that comes with a lot of familial benefits. I can’t see myself following my cousin, having 2.5 kids, a white picket fence and an office job an hour away. But think about the fact that a lot of people you know at NU will eventually find their way to surburbia, whether they mean to or not. In 10 years, you might just run into them in the Target parking lot.