I remember when I was pregnant and still living in Brooklyn, with no idea of my NJ future, a very angry man yelled at me for walking slow and told me to waddle back to NJ. I remember as any real New Yorker would, yelling back, “I don’t live in NJ! I live in Brooklyn!” The dream of more is something most city people struggle with, I was no exception.
I moved to the South Orange because my young family was growing and it became obvious that a 950 square foot apartment in Brooklyn wasn’t going to cut it when number 3 was to arrive. I was glad to be able to give my kids a better quality of life, and my husband immediately took to our new surroundings, but in all honesty, I wasn’t emotionally ready to make the move.
My home sits on top of a hill with a view of the lights of New York City in the distance and on a clear night you can even pick out individual buildings. For the first few months I would have what I called “Great Gatsby” syndrome. I would look longly in the direction of the city lights, going so far as to reach out with my hand, lamenting the loss of my former life-style.
I was making the mistake a lot of people make when they move out of the city, I tried to recreate the life I once knew. But the truth is that I had learned to accept a lower standard of living at a higher cost—less space, over-crowding, some garbage in the streets, the dollar van drivers urinating frequently on the same sidewalk I walked my newborn twins, the difficulties of parking a car, finding schools—you get the drift. Why could I see all of that, but not see my new town?
Once I started to integrate more into the community,I began to see that the new environment has its’ own perks. It may not be the city — you left there for a reason, remember—but there are advantages to your new surroundings:
- COMMUNITY: I have found more of a sense of community in the suburbs. There are more opportunities to see and interact with my neighbors. I regularly run into my children’s nursery schoolteachers, neighbors, clients, and even friends who made the move as we did.I remember loving when I would occasionally run into someone in the city. That feeling that the city is so big and yet so small. I run into someone everyday now and the feeling I have is this is my home and my community.
- IT’S NOT THE BOONIES: You have a new place to explore and while not in the city, it’s actually got lots going on. I was pleased to find that the local towns are heavily invested in the community. Regular events including South Orange’s “Play Day” and Maplewood’s “Maplewoodstock” have ensured that every weekend is full of fun. In addition to the organized events, we have a world class Zoo (The Turtle Back Zoo), not to mention a Minor League baseball team (Montclair), Film Festivals, South Orange performing arts center, some pretty great restaurants, plus the expected hiking trails and nature walks, but the unexpected pleasure of them being right behind my house (South Mountain Reservation is awesome.) Of course, don’t forget that the Jersey Shore is only an hour away and much to my happiness Snooki was no where to be found.
- CHARM & CHARACTER: All too often my city brethren and I would joke about the cookie cutter homes and lack of soul the suburbs meant. WRONG! South Orange is one of only 3 towns in United States that still has gas street lamps. Charming! Maplewood’s downtown was rated NJ’s number one downtown in NJ. Charming! Many of the homes in these 2 towns and the surrounding towns date back over 100 years and in the “newer” sections of town you can find true mid-century modern homes custom built in the 50’s and 60’s. So much Character! The South Orange Train Station just celebrated its 100 year anniversary. The train station is the 4th busiest in the state, but more over boasts an architectural history that is super fascinating to a history/architecture junkie like me. Character!
This list and article may seem like a hard sell to make me feel better now that I am not in the city anymore. I am positive some will read this and feel that way. But I have now helped and met dozens of families who have recently made this move. The feelings I echo have been shared with me and shared by me to them. Change of any kind is a hard thing, but the decision to move to NJ was the best decision I could have ever made for my family.