Haims: Stress, frustration driving our way
The pandemic has changed American life quite a bit. In many ways, the negatives have outweighed the positives. Physical health, mental well-being, personal finance, economics, and contentious politics have caused many people to re-evaluate their lives and reassess what matters. All the madness is driving people to seek refuge.
As people have reassessed their burnout levels from commuting, hostile workplaces, company culture, crime, and overcrowded cities, many have chosen to search for better work-life balances. Consequently, many urban communities have lost the very features that once gave them distinction and appeal.
As such, rural communities have seen astronomical growth since the pandemic began. A report from the Economic Innovation Group recently stated that “Sixty-eight percent of large urban counties lost population in 2021, an exceptionally high share by historical standards.” This has created a phenomenon that has been coined the “doughnut effect.” As counties farther out from city centers grow their populations, city centers become hollowed out due to departing residents.
Maybe this is why rural communities in our mountain towns have seen astronomical growth. Our mountain towns are truly special places where people enjoy the outdoors, magnificent views and landscapes, fresh air, wildlife, and endless amounts of outdoor activities.
For the most part, people who live here treat others with respect, respect others’ belongings, respect other people’s views, beliefs and values. There is a friendly style here where warm hospitality and a slower-placed life are valued. Here, people often say hello to strangers as they pass, traffic is not too congested, and people tend to pretty much know each other. It’s homey — almost a panacea. Understandably, the lure is strong.
As remote work options freed people from long commutes and students from school campuses, low mortgage rates enticed many to capitalize on the high valuations of their urban homes and consider lower-cost rural homes and communities. The desire for a simpler life is having significant impacts on communities such as ours.
Locally, housing inventories, commerce, and our roads and highways have been challenged in keeping up with the increased demand. Housing prices for new and long-time residents have grown at unprecedented levels. Additionally, shortages in products and services are occurring and traffic that rarely, if ever, existed is now pervasive. Combined, stress and anxiety within our Pleasantville communities is changing.
The pandemic has produced mixed emotions for longtime locals. While many industries have enjoyed substantial growth, the offseason that so many locals have enjoyed and valued in the past is becoming jeopardized. Offseason used to provide many local residents downtime whereby some would take time to travel while others would stay and enjoy the quiet solitude. Signs stating, “closed for the offseason,” used to don business and restaurant windows and the streets and trails would often be devoid of people. It was the calm needed after the storm.
The search for a simpler life has recently been bringing more people to the mountain towns at a pace we have yet to catch up with. Offseason has virtually disappeared in some towns and many of those who had used this time to recharge are becoming stressed, impatient, and frustrated. Changes are happening fast and we need to slow down and take stock of what matters and remind ourselves why we chose to live here.
Anecdotally, I have started to see anxious, impatient, and frustrated drivers as I drive around town. Drivers are becoming aggressive and angry. In over 30 years of living in the mountains, I can only recall a few times when I have heard drivers honking their horns impatiently at others. As well, it’s been my experience that when delays and traffic occurred, it was commonplace to see people being polite and waving other drivers by to make left-hand turns or letting people making right-hand turns go before them in line as they wait — patiently and calmly.
With all the many ills happening in the world, we do not need to add to the problems. Let’s please not add aggressive and angry driving to our community. Hopefully, locals and people moving here from areas where soul-draining commutes raise blood pressure, aggression, and anger will make a conscious choice to leave that all behind.
If driving is causing you to be anxious or frustrated to the point you must honk your horn at someone or yell out the window, then perhaps making some time for a walk, taking a breather, or looking around at the beauty where we live may be a good idea. Take heed of what enticed us to move here. Leave road rage behind.
With every day, unfortunate issues may arise. We are very fortunate to live in a little utopia — let’s preserve this as best we can.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and available to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.