I’ve been very busy lately, and part of that was due to my work on a series the Cape Cod Times is doing called “Generation Exit.” It’s a 4-part series examining why the hordes of young people — ages 25-34 mostly — are leaving Cape Cod in droves. The whole idea is that it’s too expensive to live here, there aren’t enough high paying jobs and as a result this is turning into one big retirement community. Soon there won’t be anyone young enough left to work in the service jobs and an economic tsunami will crush the Cape.
If you’re interested, my contribution to the series can be read here, and involves a Daddy Files regular named Erica. Many thanks to Erica, Dave and their cute son Matt who allowed me to follow them like a crazed stalker to South Carolina.
But this story hit close to home for me. Namely because I am in the age bracket being discussed and I suffer from the high cost of living and a job that doesn’t pay nearly enough to make ends meet.
Look, I love living here. And by here I mean Massachusetts. It’s the only place I’ve ever lived. But in writing this series, it made me question what exactly I love about living here and why. Some of those answers are easy: friends, family and the Red Sox and Patriots. Seriously, I don’t know what I’d do without my friends and family. I need them like I need oxygen to live. I’m very much attached to them and I’m not sure I could function properly without them. And the Boston sports scene is crucial to my happiness. I know that sounds odd, but it’s true.
I also like having four seasons and can’t imagine living someplace like Florida, California or Arizona where it’s way too hot. And I like living in a fairly liberal, progressive area as well. The schools here are good and you can’t beat the choice of colleges and universities in the area.
But from there, things started to get fuzzy.
For instance, I originally thought I liked the attitude of the people in this area. Make no mistake, we’re a rude bunch. We don’t smile at each other on the street. And if you say hello to a stranger on the sidewalks of Boston, you’re asking for trouble. We like to keep to ourselves and go about our business. Any kind of unanticipated civility strikes us as odd, and we automatically wonder what the other person’s angle is. We also drive fast, but in a controlled way. And I’m someone who likes to get where I’m going quickly.
But now that Will is here, I’m thinking about putting things like that in the negative category. What’s wrong with being friendly? My excursion down to South Carolina was mind boggling because everyone was so damn nice. Some people even told me to “have a blessed day.” I’m not even sure what that means, but the kindness of strangers was sort of a nice change. And the cost of living differential is absurd. Just read the story and you’ll know what I mean. A house that costs $400,000 here runs $215,000 in South Carolina. And we’re talking a beautiful, brand new house. For $215,000 here I’d get…well, I’d get my crappy condo.
I’m worried about Will. I’m worried I won’t muster up the good sense to leave this area, and Will is going to get just as attached as I am. Only what if he goes out of his mind and chooses some godawful profession such as being a writer. Unless he hits the jackpot and marries a successful businesswoman like I did, he won’t ever be able to put down roots here. It’s too damn expensive. And then he might have to move away from us, which is depressing. But not as depressing as envisioning Will, 35 years old and struggling to get his writing career going, living with us in our small, crappy, aforementioned condo because he can’t afford rent or a mortgage here.
I always suffered the outrageous cost of living here because I figured I wasn’t doing anyone else any harm by staying here. It was just me who was affected. But now there’s Will to think about. I feel a definite responsibility to do what’s right by him. Except I don’t know what’s right anymore.
I wish I could pack up all my friends and family and take them with me. And no, not just so I could stuff them in the overhead compartment to shut them up. Because seriously, if not for them (and my sports teams), I’d leave. I may end up coming back, but I would make a go of it somewhere cheaper.
Maybe then a vacation somewhere out of state might be a possibility within five years. Maybe then we could stop living paycheck to paycheck, knowing that one hefty, unexpected bill could send us into financial disaster. Maybe then I wouldn’t be plagued with worry over the mortgage, the car insurance, the electric bill and milk that costs $4.
After all, what good does it do to stay in a state with prestigious colleges if you can’t afford to send your kid there anyways?