Column: It's not bad, it's just different
I stopped by my townhouse on Monday. My townhouse. Here in Farmington. The one that I own, but have been renting out the past two years.
I'm in between renters right now. The family who had lived there for the past year has moved to Randolph, and I have a new couple moving in June 15-ish. Monday was my first walk-through since the previous renters moved out.
It's a little weird to walk around in there. I spent nine years of my life in that place. I have memories of parties and baking cookies with my niece there. Nights watching chick flicks and drinking wine with my best friends. Stuff like that.
But here's the thing: it's becoming more of a rental property to me, than a home. My home, it seems, is now in St. Paul.
We live on the north side of St. Paul. Maryland Avenue is the cross-street to the north. We're three blocks off of Rice Street, which is also pretty busy. By some accounts, we're in a rough neighborhood. At least, that's what one of my friends thinks. Her brother lives in the High-land Park area, so I suppose our North End neighborhood does seem a little more sketchy.
A few weeks back, another friend asked me to look over some property listings in St. Paul. Her son and his wife were looking for a place, and she wanted to know my thoughts on the neighborhoods, if I was familiar with them. I checked it over, and only flagged two of the locations. Not that I'm an expert, but there are some areas that are sketchy, even to me.
When she asked me how I liked living in St. Paul, my answer was truthful: It's different. It's not bad, it's just different from living in Farmington.
We're fortunate that we have some very awesome neighbors. One couple across the alley keeps a chicken in its own bedroom in the house. I know, weird. Kinda gross. But they're terribly nice and they look out for us, so I'm not to judge. Another couple across the alley has two grown children, both of whom are getting married this summer. She's a teacher, he works for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
Next door to us are a fella who is self-employed and his girlfriend, who works for the US Census Bureau. On the other side is a father who manages a diner and dining hall. Two doors down, we have a single mother who drives a school bus and whose youngest child graduated from high school last week.
We pull out the fire pit a few times a month, and sooner or later someone from the neighborhood will wander over to sit and visit for an hour or two. And I've discovered, I really, really like my neighbors.
The thing about living in Farmington, for me, was that I always felt the need to be private when I was at home. I always felt like I was everywhere -- the schools, meetings, events, and so on -- for work. When I got home, I wanted quiet. I wanted to have a private life. So I was never very social in my neighborhood. I knew my neighbors, but didn't spend time with them the way I do now.
On Sunday, I was visiting with Mark, the guy who works for MnDOT. He said there are around 45,000 people living within the boundaries of St. Paul's North End. That's nearly double the size of Farmington. And yet, I feel just as comfortable in my backyard in St. Paul as I did sitting out on my little patio in Farmington.
It's surprising how fast the two years have gone since I moved. And sure, I get a little melancholy every time I head back into my townhouse. It was, after all, my first real home. But I'm okay with living in the North End, too. It's not bad. It's just different.