When the going gets rough, anyone can benefit from escaping to a mental "happy place". Some withdrawl to beaches, others to a waterfall or a midnight campfire. I have two of these venues. One is my parents' house; the other is Jason's Deli with my best friend. My two go-to's have something in common: they're both in Des Moines.
Des Moines is probably my favorite place on earth. Sure, that has a lot to do with family ties. I know and love dozens upon dozens of people there. I'm a little biased, but it's more than that. Objectively, Des Moines is a wonderful place to live.
Somehow, teenagers and early twenty-something locals forget this. It was more common in my high school years, but I can't count how many times I've heard kids say, "I can't wait to get out of Iowa!", followed by gripes of whatever petty reasoning was in mind. I'll establish right now-- this post is for those with that mentality.
I was born and raised in DM, and now I've lived in Atlanta for over a year. I can really only speak knowledgeably of those two cities, but I can speak into what you're signing yourself up for if you DO choose to move away, and of what you're leaving behind.
Let me start with this: if you live in DM, you have it made in so many ways. To name a few:
- You can get just about anywhere relatively safely.
I like Atlanta. Well... I like Atlanta except when I'm driving. At that time, I could make swear jar deposits so sizable they would require a signature and 2 forms of ID.
Driving in DM is the easiest thing ever. Midwest drivers are nice. REALLY nice. They graciously let you in when you're trying to merge into already luxuriously wide lanes. When it's their turn to change lanes, they merge gradually and cautiously, with warning of SOME sort.
Drivers in big cities don't care if you urgently need to get over to an exit, or if you're first in line to get around a stopped bus. They'll leave you stuck. It's not their problem. It's every man for himself. Not to mention, people from all over the world move into big cities, so you have people of countless driving styles, varied driving SKILLS, and people who never took driver's ed at all (because it's not required in some countries). Driving in huge cities can actually be pretty dangerous. Don't tell my mom I told you that.
- You can get just about anywhere relatively easily.
DM roads are on a simple, sensible, pole-to-pole grid. If you head in the direction of your destination, you will likely wind up right where you intended.
Atlanta roads look like this:
and feel like this:
I'm not exclusively comparing DM and ATL. This street setup goes for many cities. Common sense does not apply toward getting from A to B. Lanes end without warning. Street lights are few and far between. It can be a mad house.
- You can get just about anywhere within a consistent, predictable time frame.
When I lived in DM, I knew it always took me 10 minutes to get to work. Sometimes it only took 6 minutes, which was determined by how many red lights stopped me. As long as I left 10 minutes before my shift started, I was always on time. Foolproof.
Here, it has taken anywhere from 25-70 minutes. It varies all the time. I've left an extra 10 minutes early and been 20 minutes late before.
This brings me to my next point.
- You have no traffic.
Imagine how quickly that "I'm done with work!" sensation dies while sitting in an hour of this:
And that's just predictable traffic. Traffic can change at the drop of a hat, the whoop of a siren, or the bend of a fender. It's a given that rush hour is really bad, and for some reason so is like EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY FRIDAY. Those are given times. You never know when else it could all come to a halt. Could be 3 am, could be 1 pm. There is no forewarning. People who live in large cities can waste anywhere between 30-70 hours a year sitting in traffic.
- Getting things done is usually manageable.
I waited two and a half hours at the DDS (DOT/DMV) last time I went. Two. and a half. hours. Cities and their amenities come with wait times in proportion to their population. DM is very feasible in both.
- Cost of living is reasonable.
- Your family probably likes you.
Alright, maybe this one could go either way depending on you and your clan. However, if you kinda love your family or at least a couple of its affiliates, you will miss them painfully if and when you find yourself alone in a foreign place.
Also, if you grew up in DM, someone chose a very ideal setting for you to begin life. Don't openly scorn that by fussing about wanting to move away.
Of course this doesn't apply to everyone. Sometimes segregating from unhealthy or codependent settings is best.
- Lastly, you have everything you need,
except Ikea and H&M, but H&M isn't so great anymore anyway.
Of course big city life has its advantages-- opportunities of every category, cool attractions, landmarks, restaurants of any ethnicity and style, and open-minded and diverse people from every religion and culture. It's definitely not all bad. I am absolutely not saying "don't ever move". I only mean to point out that good comes with bad, and vice versa, with anything in life, and that's important to think about before choosing a tremendous lifestyle change. Boredom is not a good reason for that. Boredom is a choice almost no matter where you live. Don't throw around words about something as paramount as your life as you know it. Your solution is not in cardboard and a U-Haul. For the moment, I'm merely suggesting you use perspective to be gracious about having lived in DM / Iowa, whether that's permanent for you or not.
If you ARE serious about moving away, do your homework. Look before you just blindly leap to Chicago or Minneapolis or Kansas City just because they're close. It could be that you need to get out of the midwest, not just DM. Look into a few different cities (unless of course you're just going wherever you can get a good job). Find out whatever you can; research statistics:
How happy are the people in this city? What are the depression rates, and why? Average incomes? Unemployment percentages? Crime rates? Is the population growing? What kind of opportunities are plentiful and how does that affect the rest of the city? How could it affect the opportunities I'm seeking? Try to find bloggers who live in and write about the city. Get some locals' perspectives.
During the process of deciding whether to move, be realistic. Don't have tunnel vision for the payoffs. A long-distance move is a tumultuous undertaking both before and after. Of course there are payoffs, but don't be naive about the work it takes to reap them. Finding a job is hard. Finding a place to live is hard. Moving out and in is really hard. Navigating through a new city is really hard. Making new friends is really, really hard.
A long distance move, regardless of how it all turns out, guarantees to be a growing experience.
I will always encourage anyone to expand his or her mind, horizons, and world. Consider looking around you first to seek adventure. You may be able to do it without hiring a moving company.