Once upon a time, I was certain of many things. I knew that cheerleaders were vapid and soulless. I knew that I did not need money to be happy. I knew that meat was murder, Republicans were evil, and religion was the opiate of the masses. I knew that I wanted to live in a funky urban area with a diverse population plus access to the opera and jazz clubs.
Tonight, I know much less than I did when I was young and unencumbered. Having children throws my values into deep relief. As we try to narrow down possible places to live in New Jersey, we stumble up against our beliefs. I mean, sure, I still value intellectual pursuits and diverse populations. But I also want good schools. Now, of course, the measure of schools is completely subjective. For some people, quality schools may be about learning to value folks of all hues while for others it is all about class size or test scores.
What I know is that we want to live among good people. And what the fuck does that mean, exactly? It means that we prefer not to reside in the state penitentiary, I guess, although I suspect there are lots of good folks there, too.
So, we want a town with good schools and good people. Fantastic. That clears everything right up.
“You may not want a small town,” a friend warned. “People can be awfully provincial.” You know what? Most of the people we know in big cities are provincial, too. A spit-shine doesn’t do much to hide the fact that snobbery is the flip side of hickness.
What we have learned with all this moving is that there are no simple answers about people or places. There are smart cheerleaders who read Kafka, and even the ones who don’t have plenty to offer. Money is not the root of all evil. There are people who believe in God who are deeply thoughtful and reflective and intelligent and have just come to a different conclusion than I have. People are people. There are lots of trappings, but ultimately, everyone is pretty much ghettoized by life. And they all have something to offer.
Where am I going with this ramble? Well, the movers are probably coming next week, and we don’t know where we want to rent in New Jersey. Do we want the interesting town close to New York with the diverse population and the larger class sizes? Or do we want the small, almost rural town farther out that gives us plenty of space to garden but only has white people in it? And if we pick the diverse town just for its diversity, are we in essence using the people of color for their ethnicity? We just don’t know.
So, we’ll close our eyes and leap and if we don’t like where we land, we’ll make a change at the end of the school year when it comes time to buy a home. If experience serves as a guide, we will find interesting, good people no matter where we go. The people will be narrow in some way or another no matter where we go. We will regret the loss of something no matter where we go.
Now excuse me while I go hyperventilate about the movers who are coming next week.