Some 25 and some change years ago, my older sister darkened my doorstep with some life-altering news. “I’m pregnant with twins,” she cried. And by cried, I mean literally. This was not news she was excited about. They had planned for one, not two. The news of two more children altered her future plans substantially. They would now have to trade their sedan in for a van — a car we both swore we would never own.
The twins were born, both boys, the van was purchased, and my sister, somehow, survived. These boys grew into two incredibly intelligent young men. While attending high school, they worked together to develop a video game of which royalties and proceeds paid both their ways through Ivy League schools. I could never figure out how to play it. Somewhere along the line, there was clearly a genetic misfire, in my direction, not theirs.
One of these boys is currently employed with NASA and the other writes software for Facebook. They both live in large metropolitan cities. They both are moving. This is not a move either of them are making alone. If we think the mass exodus from California was big, it holds nothing to the mass exodi (plural for exodus?) from the bigger cities. Pharaoh wouldn’t have stood a chance against these numbers.
While the cry was already being heard to “let my people go,” even before the pandemic, COVID accelerated the pace for departures. Being holed up in a 400-square-foot apartment on the 27th floor of a New York high rise with seven roommates has been the subtext of the plague within a plague. While some families have grown closer during this unprecedented time, many subletters have not. Some things are just not meant to be shared. Rather than make bricks without straw, they are willing to ford the proverbial sea and find a place in the suburbs.
The move away from brick and mortar office space means more people can explore this option. Yet, before crossing the sea, one should be aware of the desert wanderings that may lie ahead.
Although more living space for less money, cleaner air to breath, higher-ranked schools and the sound of live birds chirping may all be great advantages, there is also the possibility that there would be less money available to spend on said housing as well.
Unfortunately, some companies (like my nephew’s Facebook employer, for instance), while promoting remote work, also tie the rate of pay to where the employee decides to work. Not to mention, they reserve the right (as many employers do) to require workers to return to the workplace at some point, once we have some resolve from the pandemic. At that point, one may be experiencing the crossing of the sea five days a week; and trust me, no one will be there to part it this time. Budgeting in a vehicle purchase will be necessary as well. Which also means, now that a car is involved, there will be far less involuntary physical activity.
Some have also found that they are much more isolated than they had envisioned when moving to the suburbs. Large cities have no lack of warm bodies. In the burbs, the warm bodies exist in tents that are staked much further apart, with trees and privacy fences separating them.
Personally, I would rather hear the birds chirp, wave to my neighbors from the mailbox, spend my money on a car and cross the proverbial sea every day if needed. But then again, I’m a product of a genetic misfire.