The case for living in the country
Big city glamor? Balderdash. Try big city cost. If you want to live like a king (or at least be your own landlord), move to the country.
1. It's cheap. You have to actively try to spend more than $20 on a meal, even a good one. A movie still costs single digits. No one has a clue or cares what brand of clothing you're wearing, let alone whether your shoes, purse or belt are this year's season or last. And did I mention housing? You can live in a real house with multiple bedrooms, multiple bathrooms and a garage. Maybe even a pool. And you can own it for under $200,000. Yup, you read that right. I didn't leave off any zeros.
2. There's space – for you, for your dog, for your kids, between you and your annoying neighbors. An ad on the NY subway sums up: "Raising a baby in an NYC apartment is like growing an oak tree in a thimble." In the city, you live on top of each other. Your kids and your dog barely know what grass is. In the country, you have something called a yard. You run around, kick a football and chase fireflies. You go sledding and build snowmen on fresh snow that hasn't been trodden by hundreds of others. You can actually identify constellations because you see lots of them each night. You are fascinated by a lot more interesting animals than squirrels, and your dog acts like a dog, you don't have to carry around bags for its poop.
3. There are no billionaires. And frankly, few millionaires. To put it another way, there's a lot less income inequality. Since the cost of living is much lower, even those on the median family income (about $50,000 in the US) can have a decent life. You don't feel poor as you do in big cities where even those earning six-figures still believe they're "just getting by". In the country, you aren't constantly aware of your socioeconomic status. You worry a lot more about the weather.
4. You aren't reliant on public transit. You don't have to push your way onto an overcrowded subway car only to find yourself squashed next to someone who smells or elbows you. You aren't late because there's been a delay and some robot-like voice has to tell you about it over and over on the speaker. You can drive yourself where you want, when you want. Even if there's traffic (and there isn't much outside of cities), you can usually find another way to go. You are in control, and there's plenty of (free) parking.
5. You don't get suspicious when people are nice to you. People say hello and "how are you" and generally mean it. You go to the grocery store and have a decent chance of seeing at least someone you know. Your doctor actually calls you back the same day you call with a concern. People don't size you up constantly based upon your job, social status or income. Volunteer work isn't something you do for your resume. You feel a part of a genuine community, not just one peon out of millions.
The case for living in the city
The countryside? It must be nice if you're retired … or dead. If you want to have a semblance of a social life and like to do wild things like, oh, going to the cinema on a Monday night, the city is for you.
1. Walking. It's a thing. Forget about having to spend a quarter of your paycheck on a car. Forget about feeding your second-hand beater gallons of earth-destroying gas on a weekly basis. And (unless you live in LA) forget about spending two hours a day stuck in traffic. Living in the city means that walking is often an option. And if it's not, commuting by public transport makes you feel like you're part of the world: you and others are on the same boat, so to speak, taking time to pause and read, or listen to music, before reaching work or going home. And, from London to Paris, Amsterdam to Vancouver, chances are you will be also be lucky enough to be able to bike everywhere – making you both fitter and happier.
2. You will never be the underdog. As Daria would tell you, it sucks to be the odd one out. If you're a goth, head to London's Camden Town, which will love to have you. You like playing in all-female netball teams? You'll find a club. Love mushroom-hunting? Start your own group. In Sydney, where I live, my local park alone is the home to joggers, skateboarders, tai chi lovers and tight-rope walkers. There's something for everyone. And kiss bigotry goodbye, too: if you're gay, you will easily find both a welcoming environment. And better dating prospects.
3. The entire world is (almost) on your doorstep. I don't know about you, but it would be a shame to die on the way to the hospital – or give birth on the side of a road. Which probably won't happen in the city. You can order anything from online stores and – miracle! – receive it the next day. Museums, galleries, libraries are easily accessible, a lot of them free. And food: enough said. Who likes to have the choice only between a grim pub serving dismal burgers or fish-and-chips and the local Subway branch at the back of a derelict mall? Not me.
4. It teaches you tolerance. The world is a diverse place – and in the city, you learn that fast. There's a reason New Yorkers are considered to be the most thick-skinned people on earth: nothing fazes them, because no one has time to be fazed and they've seen it all anyway. Someone is rude to on the subway? Move along. Someone cuts you while queuing in the supermarket? Get ahead and get even. But cities also teach patience and empathy because, after all, you're all in this together. Compromise is in the very fabric of city living. Neighbours complaining about your Saturday party? You have to reach an agreement. People who don't act, think, or speak like you do? Kids who annoy you by listening to rap music in the bus? They share your space, too. And you, theirs. It's an imperfect and fragile microcosm, which, no matter its many drawbacks, seems to work. Almost like magic.
5. The countryside is not like living in Gilmore Girls. If you think the countryside is like living on the idyllic Gilmore Girls' set, you're mistaken. Nor are you likely to live the Good Life, a la Helen and Scott Nearing, who fed themselves thanks to their homestead until they both died. True country-living means backbreaking work, including thankless chores performed before dawn. Here in Sydney, I pop to the corner shop to get eggs at midnight if I want. And if you're not a true back-to-the-lander living on a 120-acre farm in the middle of nowhere, you then have to live in a community where everything you do will be scrutinised. Privacy will be hard to maintain. No such thing will happen in the city, where people couldn't care less whether you like to walk around with your pet snake, like to wear mini-skirts in sub-freezing weather, or sing Bryan Adams' Everything I Do I Do It For You out loud while on your way to buy a baguette. Short of becoming a hermit, if you're a private individual or an introvert, city life is for you.
“Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” –Martin Luther King Jr.
There have been three major violent attacks in the United States in the past six weeks. A shooter in Las Vegas killed 58 people and injured 546 others attending a music festival. In another attack, in New York City, a man murdered eight people and injured 12 using a rented truck from Home Depot to plow into them. Last Sunday, a man killed 26 and injured 20 people attending Sunday services at a church in a small town in Texas. As humans sharing the world, it is hard to believe how commonplace violence is, whether in the form of a “lone shooter” or as an “act of terrorism.” Instead of feeling the shock and horror we should, we have almost become numb in reaction to these outrageous and revolting events.
As a 17-year-old, I have never known a time in America where there wasn’t violence. I was just 1 year old when the 9/11 attacks happened. I have lived through many acts of violence, such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012. That same year, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African- American from Florida, was fatally shot, ironically, by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Whether it’s a mass attack, mass shooting or the killing of one person, the action is violence and the result is the same—death. And we are left asking ourselves, “Why?” What can we do about it?
As teens, we don’t have to feel powerless. There are things we can do. One thing we can do is to raise awareness about religion and racism. Interfaith programs at our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples can help promote goodwill and understanding through diversity. By seeing that we share faith in a higher power and working together for the greater good, we promote understanding. Programs like Harvard University’s The Pluralism Project runs the Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition in the St. Paul, Minn., area, where “teens work together to nurture interfaith understanding, reduce prejudice and misunderstanding, and act together on common values through service and justice to transform their worlds. In the process, these young people are empowered to be capable interfaith leaders, both within their own communities and beyond.” This program includes many community-based events like a gardening service as well as leadership workshops for the teens. Having more programs like this one, throughout the United States and the world, will help cultivate more understanding leadership and promote greater understanding among different religions.
Teens can also raise awareness of gun violence. Events such as Seattle, Washington’s “Teens Against Guns Youth Summit,” hosted by the Atlantic Street Center, are a way to bring teens together to actively support the anti-gun movement at a grassroots level. Programs like these can help empower teens to help them realize they can be proactive in ending the cycle of violence.
Another way teens can use their voice to denounce violence and terror is through social media. When she was challenged by another student to prove there were Muslims who condemned violence in the name of Islam, Heraa Hashmi, a 19-year-old college student at the University of Colorado Boulder, decided to make a list of all the Muslim groups that did. According to a November 2016 Teen Vogue article, “ The result was Worldwide Muslims Condemn List — a spreadsheet with 5,720 instances of Muslim groups and leaders denouncing various acts of terrorism.” Her Twitter account generated 12,000 re-tweets and the list has been made into an interactive website called www.muslimscondemn.com. Her idea led to a resource for anyone to access the information.
Whether coming together in an interfaith group, rallying at an anti-gun youth summit or using social media to create awareness against violence, teens have a voice. Gun violence and terror attacks need to end in my generation. Maybe Mr. Rogers (Fred Rogers), said it best: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ” We, as teens, need to be those helpers.