I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up as a country kid in the gorgeous Finger Lakes Region of Central New York State. It’s probably why I have such a bohemian lifestyle now. If you’ve never been to the Finger Lakes, it’s a mostly rural part of the state filled with 10 long lakes that look like fingers. The lakes are surrounded by rolling hills containing hundreds of wineries, bed-and-breakfasts, farms, orchards, gorges, waterfalls and picturesque little towns filled with restaurants, shops, colleges, and museums. Not far away, you will also find the cities of Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo, the remnants of the famous Erie Canal, Lake Ontario to the North, Lake Erie to the West. And of course, Niagara Falls and Canada are nearby.
Growing Up as a Country Mouse
Growing up, we lived in the middle of nowhere on ten acres of land surrounded by fields and woods. We had an incredible view of the surrounding hills. My dad always wanted to try farming as a hobby, so he planted a huge garden and as well as an orchard of over 500 apple trees. We made our own Maple Syrup in Winter. We ice skated on frozen ponds. My folks even caved and let us get horses, rabbits, cats and a dog. My childhood was pretty idyllic.
Over the years, I have lived in the country, in cities, and in suburbia, as well as traveled extensively around the U.S. Living in the country is by far my favorite. However, each place I have resided in has given me lessons, memories, and insight.
Living in the City
Most people have no idea, but my parents grew up in the Bronx, so the vibe of New York City is quite ingrained in me. We have had ancestors living in New York City since the early 1700s. Yes, pre-revolutionary times! So there’s some definite culture that has been passed down through the generations.
While I have never lived in New York City, we certainly visited often while I was a kid. I feel at one with the essence of New York as soon as I set foot in Manhattan. I love talking to my parents about their memories of growing up in the city in the 1930s through 1950s, and their many visits in the 1960s through 1990s. By the 1970s, they had my sister and I in tow, and we often visited the city for my Birthday over Memorial Day Weekend. I have many happy memories visiting the Bronx Zoo, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, wandering through Macy’s, and sitting in Central Park. I remember my fascination with all of the tall buildings, the taxis everywhere, Grand Central Station, the Subways and the general intense hustle and bustle of the city.
I did choose to go to college in an urban setting and lived in Troy, NY. My first job in state politics took me on a daily commute into Albany, NY. I remember at first wondering if I would ever get used to the constant drumming noises of city life. Even at night, I could still hear the sounds of the highway nearby, police sirens, and sometimes gunshots (the neighborhood was not the safest). And of course, I lived near the path where drunken students loudly stumbled home from the local bars in the wee hours.
I learned how to use the bus system to commute. It was often simpler than hiking the several blocks to my car and then trying to find parking at the other end when I got to work. I even remember the smell of the pollution coming from the buses, trucks and all those cars on the streets and highways.
While I eventually became comfortable with city living, it was a far cry from the way I grew up out in the country! It took some adjustment time. My dorm room looked out onto a historic park across the street. I was forever thankful to look out on those trees and paths and set foot in the park on the way to professors’ offices. I think even then, I longed for open space.
Living in Suburbia
When I met and married my husband, we bought a house in suburbia. At the time, we had a thriving family business and we were traveling regularly. So my criteria were that the house was 1. Comfortable and cushy; 2. In an area where we could easily sell if we needed to move elsewhere for work; and 3. CLOSE to the airport because my father-in-law always insisted on booking us on the early flights. (We manifested all three including being only 15 minutes from the airport).
While our home and neighborhood are very lovely, I started calling our location “Suburban Hell” and “Anywhere U.S.” I have come to the conclusion that I prefer either living in a city or living in the country. I just don’t care for the in-between of suburban living.
It’s been hard to identify why my soul is just not completely relaxed here. I think in a city, there is constant noise which creates a particular on-going rhythm. In suburbia, the neighborhoods have a look like we are living in a community, but after 16 years, we only know a handful of the several hundred neighbors in our development. I am also very energetically sensitive to the world, so my higher self-tunes into the shutting of car doors, conversations or arguments of people walking by, vehicles coming and going, lawn mowers, phones ringing, dogs barking, etc. For me, the noises and movements are just separate enough to be distracting and energy draining.
Becoming a Country Mouse Again
That being said, we are considering moving into the country again. My husband, Al, grew up in the mountains of Northern Pennsylvania and remembers many hours of happily playing in the woods with his brothers and friends. He always feels a sense of peace when he visits his childhood town and the surrounding mountains. That’s how I feel too when we walk around my parents’ property.
We are casually starting to look for a new home on the other side of Syracuse from where we are now. We have our eyes peeled for a house that has personality and is surrounded by a chunk of land. We are hoping for minimal neighbors, a very private yard, and land ideally consisting of woods or fields.
And of course, we would love a view of the rolling hills found in the region. Central New York sunsets can be amazing! I think more than anything, I am hoping for true soul-deep peace and quiet around me. And I know that I am most happy when I can set my feet on grass, be surrounded by old trees and breathe in fresh air. (Can you tell I am an introvert?)
While my husband keeps asking whether I want to own horses again (probably not for the sheer amount of work involved), I am very thankful for the experience our parents gave us to appreciate our wide-open surroundings. Life is short and it is important to live where your soul is most happy.