Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Would you move away from friends and family for a new job? A Plain Dealer poll

It's been interesting to sift through the comments on this one. There's a lot of the same predictable shouting: "Cleveland is great -- love it or leave it!" vs. "I jumped ship like a rat on the Titanic!" There are even a couple of chuckleworthy bons mots about losing your Cleveland accent, which of course I appreciate. But honestly, there's a lot of thought there, too, put down by real people with real worries.

Earlier this month the Great Lakes Urban Exchange hosted an event called "I will stay if...." I didn't go mainly because I was zapped by a harrowing, 3-hour long job interview, but also because I suspect "what will make you stay?" is the wrong question to ask, because so many people are strapped for cash and out of choices that it's more like "I can't stay unless..."

In Roger & Me, there is a scene where a former GM employee describes the day Ronald Reagan came through Flint. When she told him about losing her job, he blithely suggested that maybe she could just move someplace like Texas and find a new job. As if people's attachments to their families and places of origin should mean nothing.

There is a odd and ruthless undercurrent at work here. One that says, if you're not willing to leave your home and family in the pursuit of cold hard cash, you're being sentimental and backwards, a drain on society. There's an expectation in America that if you're not willing to relocate to look for work, there's something wrong with you. Maybe I'm just being sensitive, but I feel like the Rust Belt is hit the hardest by this idea, because more so than any other region, we were defined not by our character or our land, but by our industry. By our jobs.


Blogger B. P. Beckley said...

Also, our jobs are, like, going away. Nobody else is quite so obligated to make the stay or go choice. It's not that we're defined by them, it's that they're gone.

It seems to me that one of the bedrock ideas of the college-educated, "creative", "professional" class to which you and I both nominally belong is a near absolute detatchment from your family and the place where you grew up. You're supposed to leave when you're 18 and come back for holidays only, and it's not just limited to lame places like Cleveland, either. Actually, I think you're allowed to like New York or San Francisco if you grew up there, but even then it's better if you do leave for a while and go to the other place, or maybe to Paris or Tokyo or somewhere like that.

I don't think it's really a pursuit of cold hard cash, but more a ruthless pursuit of "excellence", and, yeah, not being down with it is considered sentimentality and self-sabotage. It's really sort of a functionality test -- to be one of us and live in our world, you have to be able to do this, and if you can't, nobody's really interested in dealing with you and your stupid self-imposed limitations.

Verification word: angst


10:33 AM  
Blogger Christopher Busta-Peck said...

It seems that most of the places I see promoted as having jobs also have much higher costs of living. Maybe the real question is whether one should move or take a job outside their field that they really dislike.

Here's an idea that's so crazy it might work: start marketing Cleveland as a place to retire! We've got great housing stock at very reasonable prices - it's perfect. And retirees usually aren't looking for jobs. They'll contribute to the tax base, too. The proximity to the Cleveland Clinic should be an incentive, right?

This makes as much sense as the medical mart.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Virginia Dressler said...

There was an interesting segment on npr the other day about some auto workers from Flint who had been transferred to TN many years ago, and now have the chance to transfer back to Flint. It was a mixed reaction- even those from the area originally. I've always thought of the NE Ohio area as one of those places you have to be from to really appreciate. (This is coming from someone who did move away for a few years and have since returned to Cleveland- ha!)

i agree with Christopher that cost of living is a huge factor, but probably doesn't completely make up for such a sad job market as a whole in this area, or the low salaries. But, on the other hand, the insanely overpriced studio apartment I had in Los Angeles is still more than I pay for my mortgage for a 3 bedroom house on 2 acres of land here in NE Ohio. And I have to say that Mid-westerners are much more pleasant than Angelenos! It's good to be home.

good luck in the job search!

12:24 PM  
Blogger B. P. Beckley said...

Actually, I hinted around to my parents that they could move up here (from DC area), and be close to the Clinic (and also to me, of course), but they didn't go for it. I would like it. They're old enough, though, that the responsibility of a house is NOT what they want any more. We were thinking more along condo lines. The retirement idea isn't all that irrational, though, except for the weather. Cleveland has much less traffic and great medical facilities, and they don't really care that the job market's terrible. You might not think the traffic is a big deal, but the traffic in Washington is horrific, and it's really starting to weigh on them.

Watch out for counting on seniors for your tax base, though. They're notorious for voting down school levies.

Word for today: sighed

12:32 PM  
Blogger Christine Borne said...

You beat me to the punch, Mr. Beckley: old folks don't like the cold.

Fairview Park was full of senior citizens when I was growing up. They did NOT like school levies, and that's why my 12th grade psychology book was more than 20 years old.

12:38 PM  
Blogger B. P. Beckley said...

There's two sets of forces drawing (or pushing!) people away, really. There's the purely economic forces associated with globalization and particularly affecting manufacturing. This is where "you can just move to Texas" comes in.

The other forces are the more purely social "brain drain" forces. As a member of the "creative class", you're basically expected to create a new and amazing future for yourself, from scratch, and anything that gets in the way of that (like attachment to place, especially a loser place like Cleveland) needs to be ruthlessly suppressed. The really insidious thing here is that cutting your ties to the past are part of the program, not an unfortunate byproduct.

As you might be able to tell from my word counts, it's the second set of forces that bug me more, but Cleveland gets the bad side of both of them.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Bill Barrow said...

One thing I've appreciated since moving back to Cleveland after 17 years in Tucson, is the traffic. Every major street in Tucson was, every day, like Mayfield Road out by 271 on a Saturday. Stop, sit, move a hundred yards, stop for another light, etc. Cleveland was build for a bigger population, so there's less problem getting around than in some other cities, unless of course you're commuting from the south on 71 or 77, in which case it's about normal.

8:37 AM  

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