So, with my epic move to Bennett Avenue finally wrapped up, it’s time to look ahead to where I might find myself living this time next year. My lease runs through August 2009, and where I go from there is anybody’s guess right now. There’s a few options on the table, ranging from maintaining the status quo here in NYC to heading back home to Cincinnati.
Right now I have a decent job that pays well, I finally have a stable housing situation, I’m taking on additional responsibilities with the Acolyte Guild at the cathedral, and I still have a mountain of debt to pay off. As such, I’m giving some consideration to putting off grad school for another year while I finish my BA degree, pay off my debts, build up some savings, and clean up my credit report. This would put me in a much better position to afford grad school when the time comes, but then, I’ve been wanting to start my M.Arch. degree for a long time now and I’m not getting any younger.
If, however, I decide to go ahead and apply to M.Arch. programs this fall, I’ll most likely be applying to the following six schools, listed here in no particular order: City College, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and the University of Cincinnati.
City College is my “safety” pick, it would be by far the most affordable option, and I wouldn’t need to move again. Columbia would also allow me to stay put, although getting accepted there is far from certain, and being able to afford it is even less certain.
Yale and Princeton are both within a 90-minute train ride of NYC, but given the workload I’d be under, commuting wouldn’t be an option and I’d have to move to either Connecticut or New Jersey. Princeton in particular is a long shot, as they have a very small program and admit only a few people each year, but I figure it’s worth applying there anyway.
Harvard would probably be my top choice in terms of the quality of the program, but my last choice in terms of where I’d prefer to live. But if they’re willing to admit me — and especially if they’re willing to throw me some scholarship money — I’m sure I could learn to deal with Boston again for a few years.
That brings us to the University of Cincinnati.
Ever since high school I’ve had some sort of on-again-off-again interest in UC’s architecture program. I grew up in the Cincinnati area, I still have lots of family there, and I’ve watched the UC campus re-invent itself over the years, so the place already feels like my backyard.
UC’s distinguishing characteristic is their co-op program, in which students alternate quarters between full-time study in Cincinnati and full-time employment anywhere in the world. Back in 2005 I was considering UC for my M.Arch., but decided not to apply because I was: A) unsure how much the co-op thing would really do for me, given that I already have several years worth of experience in the architecture business, and B) wondering if I’d be freaked out living in Cincinnati again for the first time since I was ten years old, after so much time living in much larger and more progressive cities.
Fast forward to 2008, and UC is back on my mind again, for the following main reasons:
At some point in my life I’ll need to sink some roots and start a practice. I could do that here in NYC, I could do it in Cincinnati, or I could do it elsewhere. The co-op program would allow me to get a foot in the door pretty much anyplace I choose. I could alternate quarters between studying in Cincinnati and working full-time here in NYC (possibly even at my current firm), or allow me to test the waters in more exotic places such as Los Angeles or London. If I decide to practice in Cincinnati, I wonder if it might be easier to be a big fish in a small pond, rather than just another minnow in the ocean.
Maybe it’s because I just signed a lease for a cramped Manhattan studio for the same rent that would allow me to live like a king in Cincinnati, but quality of life and cost of living issues have been on my mind a lot lately. Living in NYC is great for a few years when you’re in your 20’s and early 30’s, and I still love NYC with a passion, but as I get older I’m wondering how much longer I’ll be willing to put up with all the daily stress of living here. As much as I love the city life, I miss having a car and being able to hear crickets outside my window at night. I think I’m starting to reach the point in my life where peace and quiet is more important to me than being in the middle of the action. Cincinnati is nice in that it offers a wide variety of housing options and neighborhood types within a short distance of downtown and the UC campus, all for peanuts compared to NYC’s cost of living.
Finally, I still have lots of family in the area. My parents currently live in North Carolina, but plan to move back to Cincinnati when they retire in a couple years. None of them are getting any younger and a couple of family members are starting to deal with serious health issues, so part of me wouldn’t mind being closer to home and reconnecting with my roots there.
Maybe it’s just a passing phase I’m going through in response to having my home life upended for so long, but I’ve been feeling pretty homesick for Cincinnati lately. I’ve lived in so many places that no matter where I live, I’m bound to suffer periodic bouts of homesickness for some other place. At various times in my life I’ve been homesick for Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Chicago, Philadelphia, Oregon, and New York. Sometimes that’s prompted me to pack up my bags and move to that given place; other times I just grit my teeth and see if it passes. This is something I suspect I’ll be cursed with for the rest of my life.
That said, out of all the places I’ve longed to move to, Cincinnati has the distinction of being the city I was born in, the city I spent my early childhood in, and the city where most of my extended family still lives. Despite all its many faults, Cincinnati is where my roots are, and every trip back there always brings back lots of old memories. Moving away to North Carolina in 1984 was an incredibly traumatic experience for me; at that point in my life I was being forced to leave behind the only world I had ever known, and sometimes I wonder if I’ve ever really gotten over that experience. Maybe I’m reaching a point in my life where I’ve had my fill of moving around all the time, and I find myself ready to come back home for a while. Maybe I’ve been moving to places like Philadelphia and NYC in search of something that can only be found back home…. Or maybe not. Who knows.
I’m committed to staying in New York City through August of next year, and I’m fine with that. Despite the occasional frustrations of living here, the city has been pretty good to me so far, and I’m not willing to move away just yet. In the meantime, I’ve decided to take another trip back home next month so that I can attend UC’s open house on October 17th. At the very least, it will give me an opportunity to get my Skyline Chili fix.