The Philosophy of Moving To the City and Thinking It’s Going to Solve Your Suburbia Problems, As Explained by High Fidelity

There’s a dangerous belief people who feel trapped in suburbia have: That if they leave for the city–whatever that nearest metropolitan city may be–their life is going to be so instantaneously improved that they’ll never again have to do anything involving effort to make it better again. This is a very dangerous mentality to buy into. For one to believe that the only ingredient in the formula of success is a simple change of location can be perilously misguided. In spite of the saying, “Location is everything,” there is far more to it than that.

Big city life beckons with the promise of a less drab life
Big city life beckons with the promise of a less drab existence
The protagonist in Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel, High Fidelity, Rob Fleming acutely elucidates the reason why escaping suburbia doesn’t necessarily connote a life triumph:

In Bruce Springsteen songs, you can either stay or not, or you can escape and burn. That’s OK; he’s a songwriter, after all, and he needs simple choices like that in his songs. But nobody ever writes about how it is possible to escape and rot–how escapes can go off at half-cock, how you can leave the suburbs for the city but end up living a limp suburban life anyway. That’s what happened to me; that’s what happens to most people.”

Book cover for High Fidelity
Book cover for High Fidelity
The mass delusion that moving somewhere “exciting” holds the promise of a better life excuses the idea that the same things that happen in suburbia don’t also happen in the city. Because, yes, tragically, even in the city you still have to have a job, buy groceries, feel exhausted at the end of the day and end up wasting your free time watching TV. Undoubtedly, the novelty of moving to someplace like New York or Los Angeles or San Francisco temporarily stamps out the drudgery of the everyday that feels so palpable in a pastoral setting. But eventually, the boredom of frequency and familiarity creeps back in again. In order to sustain the freshness of a city, you would have to move continually, perpetuating a vicious cycle of dissatisfaction.
Suburbia, as rendered by Tim Burton in Edward Scissorhands
Suburbia, as rendered by Tim Burton in Edward Scissorhands
In the end, you might find yourself right back where you started from emotionally–experiencing the same state of frustration and stagnation you thought only possibly in suburbia. But it isn’t a place that can make your life better, it’s how you fill the hours. Though admittedly, the ways to fill said hours amplify markedly in a metropolis.