Visiting the DC area has become an exercise in disorientation rather than nostalgia. Getting off at my old metro stop, there is almost nothing I can recognize. The supermarket down the block from my parents’ old house now has a Starbucks in it.
I spent most of a day walking through the city, barely able to navigate neighborhoods I lived in as a teenager, getting hungrier and hungrier because all of the places where I could think of to eat aren’t there anymore.
Virtually no one that I grew up with lives there now, and of those who do, a (to me) shockingly high percentage of them live with their parents, even if they have “grown up” jobs. The rest have basically become, to their discomfort, the shock troops of gentrification -- living in marginal neighborhoods where they can still afford the rent, finding their presence as young, mostly white, artists and activists makes those neighborhoods more attractive for development, at which point they (along with the rest of the neighborhood) can no longer afford to live there, and have to move somewhere else and start the cycle over.
There’s something a bit sad about realizing that even if I were so inclined, nothing in my near future makes it look economically feasible to settle down where I grew up. I mean, it certainly doesn’t cost more to rent in DC than in the Bay Area, but it’s not like there are interesting old fixer-uppers to buy in reasonable neighborhoods. They’ve all been torn down to build condos and McMansions.
It seems like most of my friends feel this way. That, or they’re from small towns where moving back is impossible, not because of an influx of money that has priced them out of the market, but because as manufacturing and family farms dry up, there is simply nothing to move back to.
I wonder which feels stranger?