Sixty-four percent of college-educated millennials choose first where they want to live, and only then do they look for a job. Fully 77 percent of them plan to live in America’s urban cores. (Jeff Speck in Walkable City)
It's been said that my generation is full of urbanophiles and we're destined for downtowns across the continent.
This certainly describes me well (I'm doing ok on the job front, by the way. Updates coming soon). Urbanity doesn't require a metropolis though - a little city will do the trick as long as it hits certain checkpoints. For me, it's critical that I can live without a car and walk to a handful of 'third places' (i.e. not home, not work). I want to live in a place that's beautiful for beauty's sake and takes pride in its community. I like a neighbourhood that offers dozens of reasons to get out of the house. Fredericton is just one option of many, and here's why I chose it in particular.
You might have seen that TED Talk. The one on how 20 is not the new 30. It was a big hit in my social circles. The speaker, Meg Jay, explains that our twenties are crucially important to adult development and the choices we make in those years have a disproportionately huge impact on the rest of our lives. Instead of selling out our twenties to jobs, relationships, and decisions that "don't count," Jay pleads with us to consider her twentysomethings' manifesto: build identity capital by finding work that defines you; use your weak ties - those people you know only marginally - to get where you want to go; and pick your family by being deliberate about the people you keep closest to you.
Well, I think that in my case, the best way to follow this advice is to be in Fredericton, New Brunswick right now. So here I am.
I'm documenting the story on this website because it's much bigger than me. It's about the choices that many young people must make and why they choose the paths they do. It's also about places we live in and love, and the places we leave. En masse, young grads in Canada tend to flock to the country's biggest, shiniest cities. There are many good reasons for this that I'll explore over time. I loved Toronto hard and still do, but I believe that the cities many young people leave behind - the ones described as "struggling," or "declining" in the news - have not sung their final cantata. There is much to love in places like Fredericton, which offer the alternative so many of us seek. It's not the car-dependent suburbia where I grew up (which I couldn't afford to live in even if I wanted to), and it's not an expensive big city where rent costs will eat you alive. Instead, it's a small and friendly place that still boasts the urbanity, local shops and festivals that constitute ~60% of the appeal of city living (by my estimation).
Perhaps more importantly, the lower cost of living in these urban environments allows us to take more risks. The brilliant Sarah Kendzior puts this in the context of social revolution, but it just as easily applies to personal goals.
Fear inhibits innovation. In expensive cities, people live in constant fear. A small wrong move can upend everything, so they conform, terrified of losing their jobs, apartments, health insurance. They conform intellectually, and they conform in behavior. They cling to a career ladder with a drop-off to hell. I don’t judge them. People do what they need to do to survive. But when survival is an aspiration, society has failed.
And this is how I now find myself tapping away at my keyboard in a beautiful heritage home near a giant river whose current matches the casual pace of life on main street. Just the laundry room of my apartment here would be out of my price range in Toronto. This afternoon, I'm walking to town to pick out my first car - a bike, no doubt - from a bicycle shop that was established in 1897. I've been here less than a week and I'm already running into people I know. It feels like a place with the right conditions for creation. We'll see how it goes.
Where did you move after you finished school? What inspired your decision and are you happy with it?