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Essay: The Young Chesterfielders
Being in the 'burbs
By Gillan Ludlow
There was a point when I would have given anything to live in the heart of Richmond. Downtown. The pulse of the capital. There’s the thrill, the excitement, and the “always on the go” mentality. Everything is in walking distance when you live downtown, making it a viable living area for most undergraduate and graduate students and other twenty-somethings.
My naivety led me to believe that it would be OK to squeeze all my belongings into an over-priced shoebox and that somehow, I could justify my living situation. But, really, I was just fooling myself.
As my boyfriend and I looked at new apartments in downtown Richmond, I was infatuated with a studio apartment right across from the 17th Street Farmers Market. It was an older building, but I loved the openness of the studio, the exposed brick and the gigantic walk-in closet. I could deal with having guests walk through the bedroom closet to get to the bathroom. I could even deal with the fact that not even 10 feet away from the window, sat rickety train tracks. At least that's what I told myself at the time. Looking back now, I don’t think I could deal with those “small” details. But back then, that’s how desperate I was to be downtown.
My boyfriend, on the other hand, insisted that we live on the outskirts of downtown in a more modern and eco-friendly apartment. The building offered a parking lot, which was a necessity in our book. It was a loft that came with a remote fireplace and an iPod docking station. The floors were made out of recycled wood. The loft had exposed beams in the ceiling, stainless steel appliances and black granite countertops. All the utilities were included, even cable and internet. But at what price? A price that would eat at our pockets and would guarantee that we would struggle to save money for our future.
When we were staying with friends in North Chesterfield, we decided to take a look around and see what the area had to offer. We looked at several properties owned by a company that we had leased from before but none was exactly what we wanted. I wanted lots of room for a good price and my boyfriend had to have a gas stove.
We came across one off of Huguenot Road, tucked away behind thick tree lines. We liked the fact that there were so many trees; they separated the complex from the normal hustle and bustle of everyday life. It was a quiet neighborhood and while it was an older area, it was obvious to us that management and maintenance strived to keep the complex's appearance up-to-date.
The one bedroom we chose is 872 square feet with six closets—two of which are walk-in closets. I love all the space, the back patio and the fact that our apartment faces a beautiful tree line. My boyfriend loves how quiet the area is no matter the time of day and he got his gas stove!
When I tell people that we live in North Chesterfield, sometimes that raises some eyebrows. “Why would a 23-year-old want to live in the suburbs?”
For one thing, the community is extremely quiet. I realized that while I am working on my master's degree from home, I can't afford to have any distractions. Living in Downtown Richmond would probably be the ultimate distraction from my studies. I feel safe in Chesterfield—safer than I ever did in Richmond. I work nights so it's imperative that I feel comfortable walking from my parking spot to the front door, even if it's only a few feet away.
My boyfriend and I have friends that live across the street in a different apartment complex and I have another friend in Chesterfield who lives about 20 minutes away.
Everything we need is in one spot too. While North Chesterfield may lack Trader Joe's and World Market, there's Fresh Market. There are a lot of local restaurants, too, just like the ones we would enjoy if we were living downtown. Then there is the mall, which is just a hop, skip and a jump from our apartment.
There are some bars around the area but not as many as downtown or even the West End. But, I am totally OK with that. I think it's also cool that stores and some restaurants close at a reasonable time. I think that in a family-oriented community, it's important to allow store and restaurant employees to spend time with their families.
It took me awhile to get used to the differences between Richmond and Chesterfield. I was so used to everything being in walking distance, open late or even open every day.
But now I can say that I am a happy 23-year-old living in the quiet suburbs of North Chesterfield with my boyfriend and two cats. Living in the area brings me peace, tranquility and patience that I don't think living in Richmond could have ever brought me.
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