My dream living space is far different from the kinds of places I’ve grown up in. I grew up in suburban areas, but I’ve always been in love with the city. At first, I couldn’t picture myself living in the city; New York City would usually pop in my mind as the epitome of a city. I loved the Big Apple, and I loved exploring it, but I couldn’t picture myself living there.
One of my best friends since childhood grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I fell in love with the area she lived in; I’m still in love with it. It wasn’t hectic like New York City, but it wasn’t subdued the same way a suburban area is. Boston is another one of my favorite cities. And I love Richmond, too; I currently live about twenty minutes away from it, and I’ve only really explored it a handful of times. But every time is amazing; I think I really would have enjoyed the experience of growing up there.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy suburbia; there’s a peacefulness to it and a good sense of community if you have good relationships with your neighbors. But I’m just more drawn to the vibes of a city like Boston or Cambridge. I love looking outside the window and seeing people walking back from grocery shopping or just going on a daily stroll.
In fact, I just really love the idea of walking being the main method of transportation. I like not needing to use a car or a bike. Or even taking the bus. I feel like walking and taking the bus creates a better sense of community. When walking, you not only get some exercise in, but you also run into so many people whose schedules coincide with yours. There’s just something more interpersonal about walking; something that is more promoting of a sense of community. The same goes with taking the bus. Plus, it’s so much better for the environment.
It’s so convenient to be a walkable distance from the grocery, mall, coffee shops, bookstores, the pharmacy, parks, ice cream shops, etc. Being and living in a city feels safe and accessible and aesthetically pleasing gives off such cozy vibes. In addition, with there being a diversity of people in the city.
There’s also a joy that local shops give off that is unique only to them; of course I have a few favorite places to shop from that are large chain companies (Trader Joe’s, Target, Lidl, Barnes & Noble, 2nd & Charles), but local shops and businesses are like no other. In my small college town of Blacksburg, I made myself at home at a few of the local coffee shops. There were also a few Starbucks shops with really cozy and warm enviornments, but I would prefer the local coffeeshops over them anyday.
I also really love how cities are a happening place. There are so many different kinds of events for all different kinds of people. And, there are all different kinds of people. And art. The local shops themselves are themselves pieces or art with their own unique histories and beauty and vibes. They are places with stories. And the goods and products in those stores are also pieces of art.
One of my other many favorite things about cities are that they are perfect for an introverted extrovert like. me. They give you the freedom of being social and by yourself at the same time. They give you the comfort of knowing that you can go hole up by yourself in your apartment and go under the covers and dive into a good book after a long day or just because, or you can jump out of bed and put your clothes on and go straight into society because it’s literally around you. It’s like being among a sea of people and art and shops and food but also having your own private little, cozy bubble to disappear into whenever you want to. It’s awesome.
For my personal private living space, I dream to have my own studio or one to two bedroom apartment. But out of the three, the third option is my most preferred, especially if I have a significant other that I am living with.
If I had a two bedroom apartment or condo with my significant other, I would want each of us to have our own individual room as if they were our own individual bedrooms. The living room would have a bed in it, too– our bedrooms would be for nights when we would need some space from each other or just wanted some alone time, and the living room would be for nights when we wanted to sleep next to each other. Or, if we decided not to have a bed in the living room, then we could take turns sleeping over in each other’s bedrooms.
I wouldn’t want to have furniture that was super expensive or the type where I would have to worry about getting ruined or stained. I want something cozy, contemporary, aesthetic and simple. I’m talking IKEA furniture. I’d want my place to give off a vibe of warmth and peace. And I would want to adorn my place with color and bohemian-style decor.
I’ve traveled to several countries with my family and family friends, and so I got to explore a great handful of cities outside of the United States. My favorites were all in Europe; Yorkshire and Cambridge in England; Zurich, Switzerland; Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary. These places all had their gems, and I would love to explore them again one day, but I don’t see myself living in any of those places aside from Yorkshire and Cambridge. In fact, for me, living in Yorkshire and Cambridge would be such a dream, considering that there would be a great sense of community there. I haven’t stayed and explore any of these cities listed long enough to know how it would be like to actually be a part of the culture. But if Cambridge University had the same vibes of a college environment and a sense of unity that a university is expected to radiate, then it definitely would be so amazing for me to live in Cambridge.
The first time in my life I’d actually lived in a city for a long period of time was the summer before my junior year of high school in 2014. I was attending a summer camp through Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The summer camp itself had about a sixty-percent acceptance rate, so it wasn’t nearly as hard to get into it as it was to actually get into the university as a college student. Our summer school fee covered living in the Harvard dorms; for eight weeks, I lived in Mower Hall.
And of course with Harvard being Harvard, I lived right within the city of Cambridge. It was amazing. Looking back, it’s funny to think how my feelings upon arriving to the summer program were. I was nervous and to be honest, I wasn’t very excited about it. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the good things that this program offered me; I recognized them and wanted to experience and learn new things. But I didn’t realize how fun and transformative this summer would be for me.
I was actually nervous and sad about leaving the comforts of my suburban neighborhood, but I ended up falling in love with living in the city.
I loved having neighbors around me and so close to me; I loved how everyone within my dorm and the ones neighboring it knew each other. I loved how J.P. Lick’s, CVS, the bookstore, so many local shops, and other non-local shops such as Urban Outfitters were nearby and walking distance. And for places that were not of walking distance, Ioved that buses and trains were available to me. I loved how I would see people that I knew on my runs. I adored walking and running to and around the Charles River and seeing fellow runners and walkers around me. I just loved the sense of community around me.
My university, Virginia Tech, is located in Blacksburg, Virginia. Downtown Blacksburg isn’t exactly characteristic of a big city, but I still adore how it is comprised of cute, beautiful and unique coffee shops. And eating at the local restaurants and wandering through the boutiques and art stores were always a pleasure. And the Farmer’s Market that were hosted outdoors twice a week were always community-binding. It was always such a pleasure to talk to local shop owners and hear the stories of their shops. The social justice rallies done through on-campus organizations always spread contagious good vibes and binded people together. My favorite was Take Back the Night, hosted by the United Feminist Movement. It was a rally that showed community-wide support for sexual assault survivors.
At the end of the day, it’s the people that make a place amazing, and it’s people that make a place feel like home. It’s the people that paint a place with beauty and give meaning into the things around them. It’s people who form relationships among each other. It’s people who create art. It’s people because of whom community is built.
It didn’t matter if you were rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight– transcending categorizations and differences, people mingled in the same places. I yearn to live in that kind of urban environment again.
Insha Allah, I will in the near future.