It was a few months ago when I thought I might leave Madison, WI to move to Chicago where my boyfriend lived. Long story short, I went to visit him, we broke up, and I rode home on the bus, trying to decipher all that had happened in such a short weekend.
When I got home, however – poof! Everything was okay.
As if the city had enveloped me in between its two lakes and brought the east and west side together to meet, and there in the middle, I stood, a bright light shining like a fool, excited merely just to be home. If I were a pedestrian approaching, I would have crossed the street to avoid me. Definitely.
Back to normalcy, I now sit outside a coffee shop. The sun is shining and the sound of cars accelerating from the intersection is absorbed by the tall trees in front of the street. A bicycle’s gears coast down the sidewalk while flip flops playfully smack the pavement. I’ve pulled up my pant legs and the denim folds uncomfortably around my knees. A group of suits has moved their meeting to this coffee shop and the woman across from me acts as a mirror: laptop out, papers on the table, sunglasses propped atop her head. A few blocks away, State Street is alive with its teenagers shopping and homeless begging and street performers entertaining.
A breeze arrives on my back and spreads to my arms just when the sun is too warm. The breeze brings with it the freshness of the lakes and the aroma of sundrenched grass. I breathe in, deeply now, and I smell my lotion, with the unmistakable hint of sun block, and then slightly, delicately, the smell of fresh flowers. A bus squeaks to a stop and a motorcycle guzzles loudly past. There is a dog sprawled underneath a table with a man – a musician? – who writes on one slice of yellow notebook paper with two glasses of water sitting next to him.
This is Madison and it’s the city that I love. And I sit here and wonder how I could consider leaving something I love.
Madison defines who I am. I live here because it shows me where I was, who I am, and where I will go. There is much discussion on the influence of Generation Y and Generation X on the workforce, but attention is increasingly being shined on the power of place. Two-thirds of college-educated young adults 25-34, in fact, say they will pick a place to live first. Work comes second.
Certainly for me, place has become the nascent factor over other odds such as timing, stress, and responsibility. As careers take a back seat to relationships, and as it becomes easier to connect with those we care about, it is place that drives our decisions.
You’ve chosen your place to live for a multitude of good reasons. Your city is working really hard to keep you there. Now, why do you live there in the first place? How did you choose? Do you put place before work? Relationships? What are you going to do to give back? How can you, or do you, contribute to your city? Who or what keeps you there?
Let me know your ideas in the comments!