Renting in a Megacity Is a New Lifestyle Phase

Once we worked from about the time we could walk until we fell down and died. Now our lives are cordoned off into various segments, some of them more or less “protected”: Childhood and Adolescence, during which society does not expect to profit from us; our Contributing to Capitalism / Childbearing years; and Retirement. The tumblr csen makes the argument that there’s a new segment for many of us, post-adolescence and pre-childbearing (though it overlaps with Contributing to Capitalism): Renting in Megacities.

there’s become a new phase of life that impacts increasing number of Americans. The megacity renting years. At the moment it impacts mostly elite college graduates, though over time as we saw with college education in the latter half of the 20th century it will likely broaden its reach.

It’s a time for building personal and professional relationships, for hopping between different employers, for building skills and for having access to a large dating pool. It’s hard to know why exactly this has come together — the increasing demands of a global labor marketplace, because technology and cities combine to make being young and single in the city far more attractive than it was 30 years ago, because homeownership isn’t seen as the stable investment it used to be, or because for whatever reason Americans have put off family life.

Luxury, transit-accessible apartments are the new luxury dorms. Food trucks and pop-up restaurants and coffee shops are the new dining halls. Coworking spaces and startup accelerators are the new classrooms. Uber, Lyft, and bike lanes are the new campus skateboards and trolley. Friendsgiving is the new dorm social.

It’s an interesting idea, though of course it’s inapplicable to the many people too penny-wise to live in megacities at all. Also, as the author points out, when is graduation day? When do you move on from megacity renting into Real Life? 

Is it when you buy a place in the megacity, proving you’re financially capable of hacking it there, or else move on and out?

When you’re living in Brooklyn or San Francisco, there’s no diploma. But for the vast majority of people, these places only make sense as temporary stays. There will never be enough housing in urban core New York or San Francisco to meet the eventual needs of Millennial families.

That’s true, sure. More people are deciding not to have families at all, though. Even when those who choose to pair off and procreate, some of them move to Queens, which is still part of the five boroughs with relatively easy access to the other parts. (And to Spa Castle!)

Why is it assumed we need or want to graduate from the College Experience: Part Deux? Now that millions of more Americans routinely attend college, we’ve realized we can recreate some of the best parts of it and keep them going indefinitely. Why not?

Why can’t megacity living also be Real Life? The definitions keep changing after all, which is sort of the point of the piece. Not that taking up residence elsewhere can’t be enjoyable, but maybe the reason we Millennial-types — I’m on the border — delay “adulthood” is because the attendant responsibilities seem to be synonymous with giving up fun. Most people want more to look forward to than dying of cancer in our 80s while fighting corporate bureaucracies with our final breath. (Meaghan’s reaction to the struggles of that speaking-from-beyond-the-grave man whose furious ghost will probably haunt the offices of Health Republic/MagnaCare for eternity: “Oh god, I have that same health insurance.” In that feeling of horrified recognition, I’m sure she’s not alone.)

Megacity density = friends and entertainment within easy transportation or even walking distance. Lots of the suburbs are car-obsessed isolation factories. If I can, I’d rather grow old and eventually fight the corporate power in a megacity, even if it means having less space and less money. Of course, it’ll only work if my compatriots stick it out too. Or I guess we could all move to some still fun but less mega city like Asheville.

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