In my introduction for this series, I mentioned that I've lived in a few different parts of Virginia, from the very rural subdivision I grew up in, to a bustling college town, to my current cozy townhouse complex on the quiet side of a small Appalachian town. I think that a big part of my well-being, no matter where I've lived, has been the sense that I am part of a neighborhood.
Growing up, I had a strong sense of neighborhood. My parents were some of the first homeowners in our subdivision, which began when the developers bought a farm and parceled it out. For a young family, that situation provided the best of both worlds: my parents were able to plant a garden and orchard and enjoy the privacy that came with owning a large piece of land, but we also had neighbors who were friendly and helpful in times of need, like when the road needed to be plowed in the winter. Our next door neighbors had two children, and the three of us were stair-step kids - they were one and two years old when I was born - so we were constantly playing outside together, building treehouses, riding our bicycles, and Rollerblading (it was the '90s, after all).
In college, I lived in several different neighborhoods within my college town. I loved being within walking distance of restaurants, shops, libraries, and my church, and always felt safe and confident walking on crowded sidewalks. When I missed the country, I knew exactly which roads would take me to rolling hills and tree-lined paths.
We live in our townhouse more out of convenience than anything else - another teacher in my department was getting married the same summer as Mr. Q and I, and she was moving away. Her townhouse right behind the school seemed too good to pass up - we knew we would be renting for a while in order to save up enough money to buy our own home, so why not rent in a convenient spot? Being so close to work for the past four has been awesome - I'm able to stay at school until my daily tasks are finished without dreading a long commute, I'm able to attend my students' sporting events and performances often, and best of all, I probably get to sleep in the latest of anyone on the faculty. The downside of our neighborhood is since these are rental properties, there tends to be a lot of turnover - it seems that just as we get to know one of our neighbors, they move away. I really look forward to building close relationships with neighbors when we move into our own home at last.
Aside from the convenience, when I stop to think about it, I can actually think of many perks of my current neighborhood. Within walking distance, there is a lovely park with a pond where my students like to go fishing, wooded walking trails, a Mexican restaurant where the waiters automatically bring my Diet Coke, the YMCA where I enjoy taking yoga and spin classes, and a couple of fast food restaurants for when I'm feeling lazy. Expanding my definition of "neighborhood" a bit further, there's the church Mr. Q's parents attend, a public swimming pool, a bakery, a thrift store that always holds some interesting finds, and a mountaintop with the best view around. My neighbors might change often, but that's an opportunity to build new friendships, and since our townhouse is easy to find, it's great for entertaining small groups of guests. There are positive aspects to every neighborhood, but first we have to get outside of our comfort zones and go exploring!