Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Long Drive: Or Otherwise Titled How To Deal With A Small City.

Everything is 3 hours away or more.
When I lived in Santa Fe, I could take a 45 minute plane ride to Las Vegas and when I lived in Colorado, Denver was nearby. In the Midwest everything is at least 3 hours away (and that's assuming you want to go to Columbus, OH or Nebraska). This makes me feel really far away from the places where things are going on and I can really feel it when I'm driving through hours of farmland from Madison to Chicago once a week because I work mostly with people that live in Chicago. "What's so great about these broken down barns that I'm still here?" I argue with myself.
When I go and visit places like New York or L.A. I come home and talk about moving for a month (at least). In my mind, those are better places to live because there is more opportunity there for my career. There are more people mingling around that have larger companies and groups that I'd love to work with that are doing really interesting, progressive things. Then I look at rental prices and I realize I've been spoiled horribly by the low cost of living in Madison.
What? No laundry in-unit? No 2nd bedroom? No walk in closets? I can see that what I can spend on rent would hold approximately 1/9 of my stuff...maybe less.
So I generally spend my 3 hours driving to and from Chicago deciding where I should live. So lately, I'm averaging 6 hours of uninterrupted "where should I live" time a week. Probably not that healthy... but that's what I do.
It's also not that easy. My girlfriend in New York cannot for the life of her figure out why I don't just pack up all my stuff (as I have done many times before) and move to NY already. The truth is, I would have to take a major step down in my lifestyle, my family would be far away, the New Jersey-ite can't leave, and I have some really good friends here.
Here's how I am working around it right now.
Living in a small place is the life equivalent of working from home because there are less chances to meet people and see weird things. I have to make sure that I travel regularly. This is probably important for everyone but especially for people living in a small city. Every time I go to a conference in New York I come home and freak out because I feel like we are behind here in Madison. Whether we actually are or not doesn't matter because those types of conferences make me work really hard to stay current and that is really important.
The great thing is, you can watch this stuff online (the TED videos are amazing) when you can't get out of the state.
The time I spend in the car and at airports is ridiculous but I'm willing to do it so that I can see new things at least once a month. My Dad often calls me up and says "where in the world are you now?" and my grandfather says things like "you sure don't let any moss grow under your feet" but this semi allows me to have the lifestyle I want.
Setting myself up as a "location independent business" means that I can travel Wed. through next Tuesday and not mess up my work schedule. I get to work from remote coffeeshops and pretend I live there. Can I have my cake and eat it too? Will I ever figure out how to simultaneously live in a city and also Madison, Wi.? Unknown, but I have a lot of Chicago driving hours ahead of me to figure it out.


Anonymous Ryan Paugh said...

It's good that you are conflicted. A good writer (like yourself) needs a good antagonist. Yours is obviously where you live. No matter where you end up next, I think you'll somewhere deep in your heart miss Wisconsin. Or maybe not ... Guess we will have to see.

November 5, 2009 at 9:09 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Consider the suburbs. It will either provide the best of both worlds, or the worst of both worlds. I have always lived in the suburbs outside major metropolitan areas. It's usually slow in the immediate neighborhood, allowing us to take nice long walks and feel safe. And if we want to go to the theater or sporting event or [insert big city activity here] it's only a 30 minute drive into the city. I have lived in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco (again, suburbs outside these cities) and have always felt I've enjoyed the best of both worlds.

On the other hand, this might mean that you are no longer near family and don't get all the benefits of living in the city, such as cheap/easy/fast public transportation. That would be the worst of both worlds.

November 5, 2009 at 1:06 PM  
Blogger Caitlin said...

Aaron, I like your stance "it's either going to be awesome.... or horrible" haha
I never thought of myself as a "suburbs" person. Maybe a good option though.

November 5, 2009 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger Royce said...

Don't listen to Aaron. Well do, but I don't agree. I am not a suburbs guy. I like being able to walk (+ pub transit) everywhere I need to go - this typically requires either a metropolitan area (New York City) or a narrow lifestyle (Santa Monica). My dream is for my work to move to Santa Monica, so I will be able to walk to work to shops to the gym to the beach to home without needing my car for days at a time.

I think you'll naturally be drawn to what's important to you. I agree with Ryan P that being conflicted is okay - I mean if you were totally happy with your living situation, what would you think about on your 3 hour drives??

Also I feel like suburbs of Madison might be significantly different from suburbs of LA, SD, or SF... am I dumb?

November 6, 2009 at 9:11 AM  

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