damage assessment

I read an article the other day about how living in cities makes you dumber (#1 in the list!) We all know that it’s stressful, but did you know that being in a city actually gives us, “worse memory, poor attention and learning problems?”

The article also goes on to cite a study that says that being in nature is good for our brains. Now, anyone who has spent any time in the country knows this. You can feel it. Unless you can’t. My dad and I used to call the amount of weird you feel when leaving the city for the country “damage assessment.” The bigger/more overwhelming that feeling is indicates how much damage living in the city has done to you.

Try it out! I dare you.

Immerse yourself in a city. Just go full-force. Check out the shows, go to the bars, spend lots of time downtown. Rush hour traffic. Horns. Construction. Frenetic pace. Then… go into the country. Get out of your car and walk aimlessly in a field or woods. If there is a rushing sound in your ears, a nervousness in your body, and your brain is making lists of things it thinks you should be doing instead of this frivolous walk… you have been damaged by city life. Spend some time there. Immerse yourself in the country. Smell flowers, go on nature hikes, lie in a field at night and make up constellations. Then go into the city. It will freak you out. Quick! Go back to the trees!

But I digress.

This post started off from me thinking about the idea of “community” and how much I miss living in an area where I can walk down the street and see people I know. This exists in cities and small towns alike, and if you are lucky enough to live in an area of a city that is a true neighborhood that includes a walkable cafe and/or bar where you can go and visit with friends, then perhaps your “damage assessment” will end up being lower since you aren’t having to battle traffic and noise and hassle just to hang out.

I miss porches and sidewalks and little walk-able cafes and friendly neighbors. I miss starry nights and drifting days. I grew up in the country, but there were a few other houses within walking distance (1/4 – 2 miles) and other kids my age. Before I could drive, this was my community. I would walk out of my house down the road to a friend’s house, or take my dog with me to the lake for a swim, or wander in the forest and make up stories while trying to catch snakes and avoid poison ivy. When I got older, I could drive into town and hang out on friends porches on those hazy hot summer days.

Of course the phrase, “you can never go home again” is not referring to a location, but a state of mind. My town is still there, changed, but still there. However, my relationship to it has changed drastically. I’ve been living in cities for so many years, I think I’ve forgotten how to relax. My damage assessment quotient is high. Sometimes I wonder if I moved back to a small town how long it would take for me to get back to that more calm state of mind where worry moves to the back burner, and time moves a little slower.

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