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I'm not leaving just because of a few murders

I would be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to moving out of the city.  There's a lot of greener pastures waiting for us in Annapolis, our new home-to-be.  Easy parking, better schools, closer proximity to family who are more likely to come visit... there's plenty to look forward to.

But I'd also be lying if I said I won't miss Baltimore.  Deeply.

I'm still reluctant to tell people that we're moving without immediately giving a full explanation.  I think it's a knee-jerk reaction to all the people who, for years, would hear Stephanie and I talk about how much we love the city and then say, "Yeah, but when are you leaving?  You don't plan to stay there forever, right?"  Like, it's so impossible to imagine that we would enjoy city life this much that the default assumption has always been, "Oh, it's just a phase you're going through.  Once you grow up a bit, you'll come back to the suburbs where you belong."  I can't stand that attitude.

I also don't want to be one of those naive white dudes that turns a blind eye to the very serious racial and class divisions that have been screwing this city up for generations.  I don't want to write about my time in or my departure from Baltimore with overly-lofty language that obscures the harsh realities of where I live(d).  I know what this city is.  I know where I stand in it.  And I realize how naive I was when the riots happened and my immediate reaction was, "Wait, people are still unhappy?"

So, for the sake of getting it off my chest and on the record, today I just need to explain exactly why we're moving.  Just so that way I can be clear the next time some asshole scoffs at the notion that a young couple might want to raise their kids in a city instead of some dumpy-ass suburb.

The truth is, the "nice schools" aren't really much of an attraction for us, even now that we have kids.  I'm still hopeful that our kids go to Annapolis High, which Great Schools, a fairly useless, but widely-used, school aggregator, currently ranks at a less than thrilling 5 out of 10.  By comparison, the high school I went to ranks 7 out of 10, which is actually down from the 9 out of 10 it had only a year ago.

Here's the catch with those scores.  Great Schools rates schools almost entirely based on test scores, which virtually anybody who actually gives a damn about education can tell you is one of the most useless metrics out there.  Standardized test scores are what you use to measure progress when you're an impatient prick.  So, if you're an impatient prick, send your kid to a Great Schools-approved 10 out of 10.  If you're anybody else, do your homework and give a shit about education.

And as it turns out, I don't want my daughters to grow up to be awesome test takers.  I want them to grow up to not be assholes.  My priorities for my kids go like this:

1) Don't die.

2) Don't be assholes.

3) Try to do something with your life that makes you content.  Or at least get close enough.

4) Learn some cool shit while you're at it.

5) Jump through all the other dumb hoops you gotta get through to make numbers 1 through 4 happen.

6) I don't know, happiness or something?  Did you read those first three things?

Here's the thing about being an asshole.  If you're white, like me, and if you grow up in an extremely white area, like me, and if you go to school with mostly white people, like I did, then you end up getting imprinted with assholery by default.  It's not that white people go out of their way to be assholes.  It's just that if "being white" is the only thing you've ever known, you'll unintentionally act like a dickhead about anything that's even remotely different.  It takes years of practice and exposure to other people to unlearn that shit.

Thus it would be a terrible detriment to my kids for them to be stuck in a 90 percent white enclave in the middle of an otherwise incredibly diverse state.  I don't want them to be exoticized by the white dummies who look at them and go, "Say, you're darker than me?  Are you Mexican or what?"  And I don't want them to be roboticized by the other white dummies who look and them and go, "Say, you're white just like me!  So what's with that ethnic stuff those Mexicans over there are doing?  Isn't that weird, or what?"

But having said all that - I also don't want them to get stabbed.  See priority #1.  So, yeah, Baltimore schools aren't exactly ideal.  Still, the schools near us are workable, if not the most inspiring.  All of this is a long way to say that the schools aren't really the main reason we're moving.  A better school district is more of a nice bonus.

The honest, simple, cold truth of why we're leaving?  We just won't ever be able to afford to live in this house and fix it up the way we want.

When we bought this house, we thought we were going to have a hefty renovation budget.  That ended up not coming through.  I started making repairs and renovations on a shoestring budget, and we made some terrific progress in the last seven years.  But now we're at a point where anything we want to do is going to be a $10,000 project, and the last few years have kicked our asses so hard (financially speaking) that raising even just $1,000 for a project is a challenge and a half.  By the time we would be able to take on our next project, the kids will be in high school.  And even than, that's assuming that we decide to forgo any kind of retirement investments - which we're already skipping just so we can make basic ends meet.

The irony is that we came into this neighborhood as gentrifiers, and thanks to ever-increasing property taxes, we're now victims of the same.  Even if we wanted to stay in the city - which we basically do - the only places we could comfortably afford would be in much more dangerous neighborhoods.  The only way to maintain a balance of safety and ideals for our kids would be to stay put, and that means we have to live with our unfinished projects for another decade.  Yuck.  I don't have time for that anymore.

On the other hand... if we sell, we should be able to make a hefty enough profit off our sweat equity / rising property values in this neighborhood that we can pay all current debts and put up a sufficient down payment on a house with less taxes.  Even conservative math puts an extra $300 a month in our pockets, with less projects to work on.  That's too good a deal to walk away from.

We're not moving to leave the city.  We're moving to leave the debt.  And it kills me that there's so many folks out there who will outright refuse to understand that.

Fortunately, I don't have to move in next to those people.  Annapolis still has some cool shit.  Onward and upward.