Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Country mouse, city mouse: Miserable relocation?

'Tis a tale oft retold, in any number of variations: the country mouse and the city mouse. They swap places for greener pastures, looking forward to the exotic OTHER - only to find that, like the old-fashioned embroidery sampler says (and Dorothy found out with a click of her Ruby slippers) "east, west, home's best."

So the question remains: if you could only have the job you wanted by relocating to some far-off berg, as opposite from what you're accustomed to as a Hawaiian volcano is from an Iowa hayfield, would you do it?

Some of us have done this - left behind the familiar in search of that first rung (or the next one up) on the employment ladder, in journalism or some other field.

This topic comes up often on mediabistro, and it evokes a lively discussion, pitting experienced journalists who have made geographical and other sacrifices to make their way against newbies who were really hoping for an entry level something-something at Hearst or Conde Nast.

One writer's observation that most ads on journalismjobs.com are "for rags in cities I never heard of. So, after hitting city-data.com I learn the majority of them are unsafe, poor housing options, and no entertainment nightlife."

That poster's interesting question was: "Would you knowingly move into a bad neighborhood and risk losing $ and your safety in order to get your start? Would you risk knowing full well that you would be isolated and unhappy and still make the trek?"

I admit to having been a little hard on the poster. My poor attempt at reality therapy went like this:

Good luck getting a job at a rag in an unsafe hood with poor housing options and no entertainment nightlife. For one thing, the smirk is audible from here (in some distant city you've never heard of) so if you apply, dust off your 'tude.

Also, I wouldn't just write them off based on city-data.com. Unless you're talking about Flint, Mich., which I understand has a high crime rate, you might be surprised when you get there -- which you probably won't (get there) because you think the sun rises and sets on whichever unemployment-infested berg YOU live in.

And who knows what poor housing options mean? My definition of poor housing is unaffordable housing, which sounds like NYC to me.

If entertainment nightlife is what you're after, though, definitely best to stay in some great capital of entertainment. Please don't come to my delightful small town (with a big city just half hour away) and whine about the lack of social whirl.

If you want to work, go where there's a job or two. If you want to play and remain unemployed, you won't need to budge an inch.I wish employment for every writer, and it's always best if you don't have to move a muscle to do it. But you might need to relo to work, is all I'm sayin.

And to the question -- "Would you risk knowing full well that you would be isolated and unhappy and still make the trek?"

My question back is, what makes you so sure that you know "full well you would be isolated and unhappy"?

Don't move a muscle! If you already know that, ALREADY, sight unseen, that you'll be miserable, I double-dog guarantee you you will. Be. Miserable. Foregone conclusion.

It's possible you are very change-averse. My suggestion would be to get a job where routine is guaranteed. Toll-taker on the turnpike? Obit writer? Tax preparer?

But you might want to re-examine your comfort zone, and make a mental note to yourself, like Jack Nicholson in As Good as it Gets, to try someone else's silverware instead.

It might be fun.

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