Good Girl Gone Bad: How A Big City Turned My Virtues Into Vices

by Arohie Chopra

Maybe it’s true that women can’t change men and that men cannot change women. But, upon serious reflection, it seems that life in big cities can certainly affect women — perhaps cities even change their spirits. Is it true that dazzling city lights, barbaric street traffic and the ever-so glamorous consumerist lifestyle affect women at their cores?

Since I was already moving from my beloved Montreal suburb to Toronto, I decided to test my hypothesis. (Don’t get defensive, Montrealers; yes, Montreal is a big city, but the specific suburb in which I lived was not.) I designed a controlled experiment. I chose myself, an optimistic newbie, as the subject and designated my relocation as the sole variable.

Here I am, seven months after embarking on my journey, in the middle of a concrete jungle. As I reflect on the differences in my lifestyle, personality and mentality, I really think the city served me more than I had initially sought. What started off as an adventure in the pursuit of independence and fulfillment slowly manifested into a power-hungry, success-driven, endlessly-ambitious safari. In some sense, I barely recognize myself now.

I knew I would change and lose some small-town values, but I was not at all prepared for how much I would transform. Some people may call these newly acquired qualities “fierce” but truthfully, I am not fond of them. I fear the person I have become; I feel like a good girl gone bad — and not in the fun, sexy Rihanna way.

Below are the three vices my city experience brought out in me:

1. Materialism

Since a big city is meant to be a pool of opportunity, upon getting comfortable in the environment, it’s easy to glean a selfish sense of entitlement. Within not even a full year, I’ve already jumped on this bandwagon. Big cities put people at risk for transforming into red-eyed, evil tyrants who want everything. For young people, it makes way more sense to embrace minimalism, to accept that life isn’t a materialistic contest. Instead, we race into deep financial debt.

2. Superiority Complex

With entitlement comes a sense of superiority. Living in the city, museums, auditoriums, theaters and galleries will surround you. Whether you partake or not, your environment will automatically make you feel more cultured than people living elsewhere, and you may develop a gross ego. I know this feeling all too well — without meaning to do so, I heard myself talking down to others and being mean, totally unnecessarily.

3. Disproportionate Sense of Greatness

In a city, “greatness” is relative. I fancy myself as “great” but when I look at other people who have achieved so much more than I have, suddenly I feel unworthy. Upon joining the vicious cycle of greed, we always come close to a sense of greatness, but never entirely satisfy the thirst. The hunt for greatness is consuming. It will leave you mentally and physically burnt out. This inner competition that manifests outwardly exists outside of cities, but elsewhere, it feels calmer and kinder.

My Big City Takeaway

At first, I was very uncomfortable with the results of my experiment. I was broke, alone and felt constantly drained — it was not the conclusion I had expected. However, the more I pondered, the more I realized that perhaps my awareness to these changes provided substantial enough evidence to my incomplete conversion to badness. There is still hope for me.

If I replace my sense of entitlement, growing ego and gross greed with ambition, pride and motivation, I’ll be in great shape. These are great virtues we should all strive to possess, but within moderation.

So yes, it’s possible for a big city to change a nice girl, but when the girl in question holds herself to a high standard of reflection and remains self-aware, the city can be a beautiful place where she can truly find herself.

Photo credit: Kirill Was Here