Replacing shovels with umbrellas: Leaving my small state to chase my big dreams

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After 30 years living in the state where I was born – with the exception of a one-year stint in San Diego – I’m moving out of Maine.

Why? Because it’s time to go.

Like many Maine kids, I got a somewhat satisfactory public school education, at least starting in middle school when we moved from a failing public school in St. Albans to a somewhat better public school system in Pittsfield.

After high school, I attempted to leave the state briefly when I was accepted to the University of San Diego as a marine biology major. Turns out, my high school in no way prepared me to compete with kids from other states in the sciences. Everyone else in my classes had done everything in that first semester chem class in high school. I (who graduated third in my high school class with a four-year grade average of 94) got a C- in the class.

I stopped being a science major and moved back to Maine.

But that decision was not entirely based on my being unprepared for chemistry class. For one, I missed Maine and the Maine people.

I quickly came to the conclusion that there’s something about the people here. The weather makes us tough, the ruralness makes us self-sufficient, and something else makes us stubborn and resistant to change.

All these characteristics are easily attributed to nearly everyone in my immediate family, but I somehow missed the resistant to change part. I love change. I thrive on it. That’s partially why I fell into my career as a reporter: I need things to be different all the time.

And so, my quest for a new adventure is taking me west. I’ve accepted a job at the Puget Sound Business Journal, a weekly business newspaper in downtown Seattle. I’ll be covering technology, arguably the fastest changing industry in the business world. I’ll have plenty of change to keep track of, I’m sure.

I’m told people are nice there, and judging by the interactions I’ve had with my soon-to-be coworkers, people are more than nice there: They’re so helpful and friendly I’m a little taken aback.

I’m used to Mainers.

Not to say we’re not friendly. We are. But only when you get to know us. At first, I know many Mainers come off as cold. Probably because we are – literally – cold.

But it’s time for me to go now. I love my home state, but after 30 years, it’s time to move on. Perhaps I suffer from grass-is-always-greener syndrome, but Maine is certainly not the land of opportunity and doesn’t appear to be headed in that direction any time soon.

So, as a way to say goodbye, here’s a list of things (in no particular order) that I’ll miss and things I won’t miss about Maine as I head west to the land of rain, coffee, volcanoes, grunge and software development.

What I’ll miss:

– Some pretty important women in my life who are Mainers (some born, some transplants).

– My crazy Maine family, of course.

– The Mainah accent. It still cracks me up after all these years.

– Restaurants/bars: Shay’s (particularly server/bartender Liz!), Bar of Chocolate, The Dogfish (on Free Street), Emilitsa, The Armory (also fondly called the Adultery Bar for its dark corners and lack of windows), GLB, Local 188 and Sonny’s, Bonobo (that Smokey pizza is amazing), Haggarty’s, Yosaku, Tan Door, Seng Thai (St. John Street).

– Allagash beers (although I’m hopeful we can find at least some of them out west).

– The five gorgeous summer days we have in July and/or August.

– Pineland Farms smokey cheeses.

– People piling zucchinis at the end of their driveways with “free” signs next to them.

– Stopping by Smiling Hill Farm for ice cream in the summer.

– The colors of the leaves on the sugar maples in October and that sharp winter-is-coming smell.

– Reny’s.

– Every “House of Pizza” in every Maine town.

– The Portland Symphony (one of the best small symphonies out there, I’d argue).

Things I won’t miss:

– Winter.

– Snow, ice, freezing rain.

– Below-freezing temperatures.

– No seriously. I hate winter here.

– L.L. Bean “original” boots. Ugliest things ever created.

– My 50-minute commute to work.

– Car inspections (or having a car at all, now that you mention it).

– Wharf Street in Portland after dark.

– Never having enough quarters for parking meters.

– Hunter orange.

– Walking on cobblestone streets in heels.

– Our current governor.

– Mosquitoes/black flies.

So, thank you to all my readers for reading, my sources for talking to me, and to my state for providing me an inexpensive education (although only my undergrad is from USM; my master’s from Vermont College) and a jumping off point to launch my career (and a place to meet my wonderful husband). I realize I’m doing exactly what economists are warning the state young people are doing: Getting educated and building a resume, then leaving.

But as much as I love Maine and the Maine people, it’s not worth sacrificing my career to stay here. You may see my byline again, but hopefully in a national publication, and not likely in a Maine one.

I wish my state the best of luck as I become part of the problem, another statistic highlighting one of the state’s biggest challenges for the future: Keeping people with big dreams in a small place.

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