These rising costs are causing the well educated to “sell their souls” to law firms, investment banks, and management consulting firms to maintain the upper middle class life most of our parents provided for us, According to social critic Daniel Brook, whose debut book is The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner Take-All America.
I know what you’re thinking: Those college grads making $80,000 bonuses on Wall Street do not deserve any sympathy; They made a choice to live in the most expensive city in the country and they made a choice to work like slaves for a few years until they can retire to their yachts and country clubs.
But if you really look into the situation, Brook has a point. Wall Street I-bankers are certainly earning more than enough to simply “stay afloat,” but the rest of us are selling out for the sole reason of living in a “cool” city.
Junior year of college, I realized my passion was to become an entrepreneur. It didn’t matter. I sold out. I moved to the big city with the enormous rent payments. I took the decent paying job to support my living and partying expenses. Most people I know did the same. Some are content, some are looking for a way out, some are happy.
Some of us grew up with dreams of becoming artists, musicians or non profit executives. Regardless of the dream, most of us settled for the same thing; a decent paying job in an overpriced city. What I now realize from first hand experience is unless you’re an investment banker with semi-realistic plans of retiring at 35 with a couple million; the big city is overrated.
Is it really imperative to live on New York’s Upper East Side, San Francisco’s Marina or Washington D.C.’s Dupont Circle? Why not say “screw you” to the boring job in New York and take the exciting job in Cincinnati, Ohio?
My friends from college, Matt, Cole and Adam, knew from day one they didn’t want to work for a corporation. They came up with an idea, raised some money and toured the country to find the best place for their first in a chain of restaurants called Fat Sandwich Co.
They opened in Norman, Oklahoma. All three are from the Philadelphia/New Jersey
area and all of our friends told them they would hate living in Oklahoma. Last
week Cole told me that none of them even want to move back to the east coast.
From the outside, cities like Cincinnati, Ohio and Norman, Oklahoma aren’t nearly as exciting or trendy as New York or San Francisco. According to Brook, and I completely agree, chances are we will just be able to “stay afloat” either way. Since that is the case, I will not hesitate to choosethe fulfilling, under paying job in a small city rather than grind it out during the week to party until 4a.m. on Friday with the rest of the yuppies in the big city.
My lease is up in two months and it’s finally time to pursue my passion. I want a relatively inexpensive city with good entrepreneurial opportunities. I no longer care about trendy bars; I have no desire to eat at expensive restaurants. Some things are more important. It’s time for me to make a decision, because there is no reason to be bound by geography or the “coolness” factor of a city.
Ryan Healy’s blog is Employee Evolution.