Life in urban suburbia is all amped up.
Working, parenting, schlepping, socializing, shopping, exercising, creating, competing, volunteering, networking, hiring, reinventing, and renovating; we residents don’t quit. At any given moment, look above the head of the person in the crosswalk or the parent at school drop off and you’ll see a swirling cloud of thoughts polluting the air.
From nannies and nursery schools, tennis and travel teams, hot yoga and country clubs, the café with the best salad and the coffee house with the best scene to dinner parties and day camp, cliques and careers, book clubs and PTAs, local arts and big city connections, even casual conversation at the playground feels wired and burdened by the need for it to be about something.
I liken this way of life to Richard Scary’s, What Do People Do All Day? Just slap some riding boots on Lowly worm, switch out Mr. Frumble’s bananamobile for a luxury SUV, and squeeze Mommy Cat into a pair of Lululemons , and you have it; the Urb-Burb version of Busytown.
Where everybody is looking good; doing something; being interesting.
So when some Urb-Burb families take a vacation, the getaway destination becomes increasingly attractive if the activities and environment is simplified, back to basic, and dare I say, normal.
One day, I was chatting with a couple from the community about summer family vacations. They were gushing about a country retreat that they and their children take every year.
I grew up in the country and my husband likes anything rural, so I was excited to learn more. “What’s it like?” I asked.
“It’s a great place to visit,” the wife explained. “Nothing too fancy, very low key, with activities for everyone. Plus the same families try and go back the same week each summer, so you really get to know people.” Then with her face as serious as stone she said it, “Interesting people, too.”
“Interesting people? What the hell does that mean?” I thought.
This wasn’t the first time I’d heard the term, Interesting People used as a qualifier. Tongue tied, I didn’t ask what she meant. Instead, I cocked my head and gave a standard Urb-Burb response, “Aah, is that right?”
Let’s define interesting. What attracts you to a person that makes you want to learn more?
Is it financial success, formal education, knowledge of the arts, volunteer efforts, travel experience, fashion style, dedication to the environment, fitness regime, family background, social prowess, or whatever the local majority decides?
If so, then we’re too caught up in our busy towns, swirling clouds, and skinny jeans to realize that we are missing the mark.
Interesting is found on the inside. It is goodness, generosity of spirit, integrity, courage, decency, positive intention, and kindness. And our communities, Urb-Burb or otherwise are teeming with people just like this.
Unfortunately, interesting is not always easy to see. It requires us to go below the surface, strip away insecurities, dial it down, stop trying so hard, extinguish formalities, examine priorities and perceptions, reach out, branch out, and be inclusive.
And that’s scary.
With October on the horizon, it is safe to say that we are back to the usual routine and are out and about in the community. So the next time you’re waiting to cross the street, buying time at the swings, or kicking back at that café try taking a page out of a preschool handbook.
Stop. Look. Listen. And then talk to someone.
Perhaps then we’ll begin to appreciate that everyone is interesting.