I have become a suburbanite.  For a while I was just a former Hoosier dwelling in an outlying area of Atlanta. It was all luck of the draw and Dairy Queen dreams… now it’s become who I am. How did this happen to me?

Growing up there were two types of people – city folk and country folk and neither the twain shall meet. There was no middle ground. Though raised in a rural locale, I was always drawn to more urban areas. Living in Chicago was my goal –everything right there at your finger tips. The diversity, the culture, the architecture, the lake all had me excited about the post-college life that this great Midwest metropolis would provide.

Alas, I married Clifford and got stuck in the South. I’ve come to accept this setback… for now. We were originally ITP when we got hitched and settled down. For those that live anywhere other than the Hotlanta metro area, that means Inside The Perimeter. I may have mentioned this before. Atlanta is essentially encased by I-285. It’s been dubbed the Perimeter. If you are on the one side, you are considered Inside which is Atlanta for all intents and purposes – the city. If you were to venture to the other side of I-285, well then, that’s Outside The Perimeter which would make you OTP. It would also mean you are officially in the burbs – and here we have middle ground.

My first employer in Atlanta often spoke about ITP and OTP. Though she’d lived in Atlanta for 17 years, she’d never ventured Outside The Perimeter. With everything in the city, why would you ever need to visit the suburbs? I could understand that sentiment with museums, restaurants, and nightlife all within walking distance or a short cab ride away, why live in an area filled with strip malls, soccer moms, and pizza joints that close at 9 o’clock on a Friday night? Again, I understood the sentiment, but I was also from Nowheresville, Indiana. We drove an hour to eat at an Outback Steakhouse. We drove two hours two Chicago. We drove four hours for a theme park. So what I couldn’t understand was why someone refused to drive just twenty minutes to another part of the metro area to do something potentially fun. And it worked in reverse. We’d visit my in-laws Outside The Perimeter and their friends would talk about wanting to see something playing at The Fox Theater or attending something going on at Piedmont Park. I’d ask why not and I would always get a hearty laugh of “We’re not going into Atlanta.” and “It’s too far to go.” But it was 20 miles away? 30 minutes tops? That I didn’t understand.

Then I moved to the burbs. I am now OTP. Suddenly, I understand everything.

My cousin said says he’s coming to town and wants to drive to Gwinett Stadium to grab a minor league souvenir cup. Makes sense. That’s what rural Hoosiers do. We drive. We drive long distances to entertain ourselves, to eat, to buy souvenirs, to enjoy life beyond the cornfield confines in which we live. I love driving those roads and distances. It makes me feel so incredibly free to take off down a two lane road with the windows dopen and the wind in my hair, radio blasting to John Mellencamp or Tom Petty … 70 miles could be driven in 45 minutes flat, but in Atlanta, the same distance isn’t the same kind of drive. It’s irritating. It’s stop lights and tail lights and it’s exhausting.   My life was built around drive times to gauge distances. 36 miles on back country roads could be nailed in 25 minutes. 36 miles in Atlanta turns into an excruciating 90 minute exercise in exerting patience that I no longer have.

And it doesn’t end there. Clifford asks me what’s for dinner and we decide it’s a take-out night.  What do we want to pick up? Clifford says Five Guys and I actually whine, “But that’s 15 minutes away! Pick something closer.” My younger non-suburban self would have been devastated at that decree.

There’s no life but Netlfix beyond 9PM. Say I want to go to a great new bar downtown? A cab from the burbs to the city and back would break my bank.

I need to go to Ikea, nestled in the heart of Atlanta, and I can’t just hop in my car and go. I have to plan ahead. Calculate rush hours and traffic patterns and construction sites.

And forget blasting the radio with the windows down. I’d be choking on the smog before Tom Petty could finish his intro.

So I stay in my 2 mile bubble to shop and eat and experience things and it is SO limiting and I miss my non-suburban self so much…


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