Working in the City vs. Working in the Suburbs

I live in New Jersey, but I live close enough to NYC that I can commute to work there if I want to (which is great, because come on, it’s New York City). I’ve done the commute via bus, train, you name it—and while it sucks, it does have its advantages.

For the past five months, I’ve been working about 30 minutes away from my home in NJ. After interning in the city for six months, I thought I needed to get away. The commute was driving me crazy and making me miserable. But I’ve slowly realized that it’s just as bad when I get stuck in traffic for up to an hour AND I actually have to pay attention. So, which one is better?

Pros of the suburbs

  1. No public transportation (unless you have a situation where you need to). This one is big for me because I don’t like people in the morning. I avoid talking at all costs before 9 a.m. I like being alone and listening to my music without hearing the chatter of people around me, or the slurping of a drink, or the sniffling of runny noses. Plus, I don’t have to pay for the commute, and luckily, gas prices aren’t too bad these days.
  2. It’s convenient. It’s easier to get into my car and drive straight to one place rather than waiting (especially in the cold) for a bus or train to show up, making stops for other people, and having to transfer. I’m not going to lie—I’m sorta lazy, so the lack of effort I have to put in during the morning appeals to me.
  3. It’s safe. Is this good or bad? Working in NJ seems like a safer bet to me. Not in the sense that I fear for my life (although driving sometimes does that), in the sense that I feel comfortable. It’s like your safety school when applying to colleges; it’s not what I really want, but I got in, and I’m content.

Cons of the suburbs

  1. The traffic, which is inevitable in New Jersey at rush hour. It has taken me anywhere from 30 minutes to get home—to an hour and 15 minutes. At least if I’m stuck on a train, I can read a book, take a nap, write, or just text someone. But there’s not much you can do in traffic besides just sit there and stare at the sea of red brake lights in front of you.
  2. The social life. Maybe it’s just my workplace (or me?), but I haven’t really met a lot of people my age at work. You always hear and read about how building friendships with your coworkers is one of the aspects of a job that makes it worth waking up for everyday. But I haven’t found that in NJ. Maybe all of the recent college grads migrated to the city to work and live?
  3. The environment. This goes hand-in-hand with the social life. My two internship experiences in the city were drastically different than my NJ experiences. I work on a street with a ton of other businesses as well, and it’s a very corporate environment. There isn’t much excitement. I sit in a cubicle and catch glimpses of sunlight from my boss’s office window or if I go outside for lunch. It’s not terrible. It’s just different.

Pros of the city

  1. There’s variety. Everyday can be different if you want it to be. During my summer internship in the city, I would walk from Penn Station to the office everyday—but rarely take the same route. One day I would stop in Dunkin, and on a different day, Starbucks, or some other coffee shop. I would take a walk to Madison Square Park or sit down at a table by the Flatiron. There’s just so much to discover in the city, and the variety makes it exciting.
  2. The opportunities. All of the big name magazines are in the city—the ones I want to be at someday. In New Jersey? There are opportunities, but not really in the direction I want to go. The safety and comfort factor comes into play here; big companies can be intimidating—but definitely worth it.
  3. The environment… is the opposite of the suburbs. Open workspaces, tall buildings, smart, young, hardworking people, and the hustle and bustle that the city is known for. I’m still trying to figure out where I fit in. People working in the city just act differently.

Cons of the city

  1. The commitment. In my experience, many offices in the city work on the 10 to 6 schedule, not the 9 to 5, which means my day ends later than normal—even though I’d probably be waking up just as early. I’m only a little over 20 miles away from the city, but bus stops, train transfers, and delays can make the commute over an hour. (And don’t forget any walking I have to do or subway rides I have to take.)
  2. Public transportation. Let me just paint you a picture of one of the worst experiences I had on a train. I speed walk to Penn Station, find out all trains are delayed (again), run through the crowds of angry people to catch the next one out, and get on one—but it’s not leaving. There’s mass confusion and everyone is yelling at the conductor. I’m sweating and I just want to get home. I find a spot to stand. Older guy is across from me. Train finally begins moving. He looks like he has an itch. Then he puts his whole entire ARM down his pants to scratch his leg (I think/hope it was). I almost throw up.
  3. The environment. Yup, I said it again. The environment is both good and bad, at least in my opinion. How much can you handle of the constant movement of the city? The noise, the work, and the social aspect of it is constant. It’s the city that never sleeps, after all. But you need sleep. And after a while, it could wear you down to nothing.

My job in the suburbs of NJ will be over at the end of this month due to circumstances I can’t control, so I’ve really started to think about where my career is headed and where I’d be happiest. Do I want to be comfortable or do I want a challenge? I think I know what my answer is.

 

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