By Jeff Girod
Turns out we are a giant ball of neck-knotted, knuckle-biting, finger-pointing stress. That’s according to an annual survey conducted by Forbes, which ranked Riverside as the nation’s 14th most stressful American city.
Geez, Forbes, that sounds like bad news that should come with scented bath beads and maybe a Kenny G CD. All this negative energy is bumming me out more.
The report analyzed the 40 biggest cities in the United States and reviewed quality of life data, including housing affordability, air quality, average weekly working hours and traffic congestion.
The good news? Riverside is still less stressful than Los Angeles, which ranked as the most stressful crap hole in the nation.
The bad news? Riverside is a giant sad face compared to pretty much every other city limit sign within the U.S. (as if that idea alone isn’t enough to put a giant kink between your shoulder blades).
According to Forbes, “[Riverside] shares more than sunny days with its Los Angeles neighbor. In addition to the highest unemployment rate on our list—a whopping 14.7 percent—it shares the top spot for worst ozone levels with L.A., and has a high cost of living index.”
Ouch. That does sound pretty stressful. And that doesn’t even take into consideration our sweltering heat, bottle-necked freeways, busted real estate market, over crowded schools, near-constant 909 and 951 jokes from Orange County and snooty magazine articles conveniently reminding us all about it.
Yes, yes, we get it, Forbes. Things could definitely be better. But we can’t all afford to ditch our long pants and go live in a Hawaiian paradise. (For the fifth year in a row, Hawaii was named the least stressful state in America. Or maybe nobody in Hawaii even finishes their survey because they keep spilling Mai Tais on their tests.)
You like to think you have your stress under control. Sure your job could be better, your commute could be shorter, your house could always be a little nicer . . . but then a survey like this comes along and says that, hey wow, percentage-wise, you’re slowly trickling your life away—not to mention your family’s lives—in of one of the unhealthiest smog coffins in America.
So really, why bother? Good luck rolling out of bed for the next 365 days.
But stress is a complex thing . . . Examining the other cities on the Forbes list reveals something perplexing: Sure, there are the usual suspects on the stress-o-meter: Philadelphia (No. 6), Houston (No. 11.), Baltimore (No. 12)—a.k.a. three cities where I would rather get shot in the face than live (and probably would if I actually lived there).
But there are other cities on the “stress” list no one would imagine—San Diego (No. 5) and San Francisco (No. 7). Both are among the most beautiful cities in the world, and sell post cards with sayings like “Wish you were here!”
But did you know San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is the second most common suicide location in the world? At least 33 people killed themselves by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in 2012. How’s that for stress?
Any city, any situation, can seem ideal when it’s happening to somebody else. Maybe it’s a job or a house, or something even more personal like a marriage, kids or even your health. Whatever your situation, whomever you are, there are people who are looking up to you and wanting what you have.
So what if Riverside is no. 14 on some terrible list. Let’s say you read the Forbes article, decide to change everything about yourself and move somewhere that’s supposed to be idyllic such as Wyoming. Then you get to Wyoming, get all settled in, and you’re killed in a freak fly-fishing accident.
Happiness is fleeting. Do the best you can wherever you are with whatever you have. And if you can’t, fake it.
We can’t all live in Hawaii. And really, the more I think about it, I’ll bet those Hawaiians are more stressed than they let on—because you’d sound like a real asshole to complain about anything in Hawaii.
Or maybe that’s my own stress talking. I could use a vacation.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org.