My quality of life is less about the size of city where I live, the zeros in my bank account, the car I drive or the number of friends I have. Don’t get me wrong — each of those things does affect my life, some more than others — but they make for lousy measuring sticks.
Lately, I’ve been thinking of how lucky I have it: how deep and wide and truly favorable my life is. Much of it intangible, unseen.
Risking tears and heartache, I recently entertained the idea of leaving Lincoln and seeking an Instagram-worthy life somewhere else.
I like the idea of adventure, and I see it splashed all over Instagram and Pinterest and sometimes on Facebook in the lives of my friends. It’s a pull toward what I don’t have, what I’m not doing: this chasing-the-sun and finding-adventure-every-day kind of life.
Somehow, the sunset pictures of someone else’s adventure has become an imaginary rival with where I am.
It got me thinking about what it would look like to leave. And like floodgates opening, I easily found a dozen reasons to stay.
Yes, even in Lincoln, my sweet college town that ebbs and flows by the thousands every Saturday (because, college football).
It’s not a booming metropolis with an envious skyline, and it might not sound exciting, but the idea of leaving really got me thinking about those things that say, “no, don’t go!,” along with the people who say it too.
Here are a few:
I lived in London during college, and it was the greatest four months of my life — adventure x1000! London (and all of Europe, let’s be honest) is so busy and so full that it demanded me to “go” to “see” to “experience." All the FOMO.
I mean, I went, I saw, I experienced, but I also got super exhausted.
After a few months, what I wanted most was to be at home on a Saturday and not feel like I was missing out on life. As much as I loved those four months of my life (and sure, it was only for a limited time and I really went for it), I couldn’t wait for the demands of sightseeing to stop.
When I got back to Lincoln, I knew I could “be.” I was home, where I didn’t feel rushed to experience all that a huge city offers at every hour of the day. This is my home, where I relax, find refuge, find rest.
Related: Choose Your Own Adulthood
If you’ve never been to the Midwest, it’s not always fancy or shiny or bursting with energy.
I grew up in a town of 118 people, next door to my grandma and grandpa, where we had to go to the post office to get our mail from PO Box 12 (it was waaaaaay up high for a little girl to reach!).
I grew up playing cards with my dad, going for walks, playing bike tag with my friends and cleaning my handcrafted play house from top to bottom — with a vacuum and windex, I’m not even kidding.
I don’t need much to be entertained, and I believe it was 18 years of unhurried time in a rural town in the middle of cornfields that taught me how to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
In Lincoln, we have all the perks of living in a small city (population: 250,000-ish):
- You can drive everywhere...and probably park right next to the entrance.
- I don’t have a commute. Okay, relative to many cities, I don’t have a commute. But technically I make a 20-minute drive to work, which is actually really annoying compared to my 6-minute commute to work from my old house.
- I’m maaaaybe 15 minutes from most of my friends’ homes? In fact, I’m actually 3 minutes (read it: THREE) from my friend Jenna’s house, where I do most of my stretchy-pant-hoodie-up-chick-flick-movie-watching.
And on a Nebraskan’s scale, I’m pretty close to my hometown. Only 70 miles (aka 70 minutes) away, I can head home and come back in the same day on a moment's notice.
The idea of having to take a flight home to see my nieces rips me apart. No.thank.you.
I love my job in Lincoln. My bosses challenge me often and push me to make big decisions. I have a ton of autonomy and I can apply my own ideas to a task in a matter of hours, not after weeks of meetings and lofty hoops or red tape.
I have room to grow, to challenge myself, set goals and receive mentorship from others who will push me forward.
That’s all I could want in a career. I already have it, and it keeps getting better.
When I created Ask Allea, I would have been happy with the fact that I had a Tax Identification number (you know, because I'm a rule follower + business things) and an actual domain name.
I honestly didn’t plan anything beyond that. After I launched Memorial Day 2016, I received lots of encouragement from my friends to keep going; they were saying, “no one else is talking about this money stuff, but we want to hear it.”
A blog is a lot of work, and it takes dedication to get it started!
Regardless of where I live, my blog gives me the opportunity to set goals for myself, network, make friends and surround myself (even if it’s digitally — oh hai, twittersphere!) with go-getters. It’s a good place to be.
Related: Follow me on Twitter here!
My best friend is also an ambition-junkie. We push each other. We genuinely enjoy the shove to be better, pursue new things and do the things you’re dreaming up. She’s my sounding board for blog ideas and nailing down my coaching process. It’s fun to cheer on her successes as she continues to cheer on mine.
Cost of Living
Y’all, it’s super cheap to live in the Midwest.
Housing is inexpensive (renting with roommates is even cheaper), food is cheap ($5.50 for a slice from Yia Yia’s is the best), it costs $1 to park downtown for an hour (or free for the first hour in a garage) and there’s a ton of free entertainment year-round.
It’s the Frugal Fannie’s dream.
I’m sure paying for an apartment in Greenwich Village works for some people, but it’s not for me.
Related: Choose Your Own Adulthood
Woof, I don’t even know how to tell you this: In the seven seconds I thought about leaving my friend group for some other city, I choked up and gave myself a quick pep talk: “It’s all make-believe, Allea! You don’t have to go anywhere. Everyone’s still here!”
I love my people.
We’re a weird group of friends, having all met through one random connection or another. In fact, some of my best guy friends I met because they lived two blocks away. (Before I moved, I used to trek there through the snow with a saucepan full of mac & cheese to watch Disney movies! lolz, we’re just college kids who pretend to be real adults.)
We’re all here, in this town, looking for friendship and love and community and connection. With each other, we have this.
Whether it’s watching Gilmore Girls, Harry Potter or crashing on someone’s basement couch even on a work night, it’s community and it’s ours.
I have friends outside of my peer group too. I’ve got a dear friend who just finished her first year of coach-pitch softball, another who owns an auto shop and cares for me more than any mechanic ever, and my lovely friend Maeve who’s rocking high school and raising the bar.
By God’s grace, he’s also placed some wonderful women in my life, many of whom are just a few years ahead of me with families and houses and dogs and whatnot. They welcome me in, send their kiddos over to me for hugs, tell me I’m loved and show much of that love themselves.
One of these ladies recently told me, “We often prioritize adventure over relationships.”
And that’s all I needed to hear.
These relationships are dear to me. These are people I want to learn from and grow with. I believe there’s a reason our lives intersect.
Above all — through all of this mental turmoil and emotional somersaults — I chose my city again.
I’m not here because I have to be. I’m here because it’s my choice, and I’ve revealed a lot to myself by viewing it through that lens.
I’m holding on more dearly to these treasures, these people, this place, my home.
I can be here and grow, be here and love, be here and belong. I can be here and simply be.
What are your reasons for staying where you are? What things — seen or unseen — add to your quality of life?
Related: Choose Your Own Adulthood