What is it that makes a city great? Is it the location? The scenery? The sky? The food? The weather? The culture?
What quality do you look for when choosing where you will live?
Seven years ago I graduated college. This brought a decision. My wife Jeannette and I knew we would be moving from our hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico to Somewhere Else, USA.
I remember the day. Sitting at the kitchen table with a map of the United States. We sat down to choose where we would live.
“I want to live near the beach”
“I want to be near the mountains.”
“I don’t want the city to be too big.”
“I don’t want the city to be too small.”
“I don’t want to live in that state.”
“I really want to live in that state.”
This was our conversation. We narrowed the field. 11 States we would be willing to live in.
Colorado, Texas, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Now how to narrow this field down. We decided we wanted a city of 300,000 people or less but no less than 50,000. Now what?
Since I was going into the medical field we decided that I would just call the hospitals in the towns of that size and let the job offers I receive, if any, decide the which cities we would pick from. So I did. I submitted 30 applications and we waited. And waited. This was the longest summer of my life. We had been married for just about 3 years. We have an 18 month old and a 4 month old. I need to work. I need an income. I need a job.
All the job offers I believed I would get were not rolling in. We sat down again and had a long talk about what we wanted to do. We decided that whatever offer came in we would seriously consider.
Out of all the applications I had submitted I remember one the most. It was the only one that I wasn’t able to submit online. I had to download a pdf, fill out the application and fax it back. I remember driving to Kinko’s to fax it the application. I didn’t know anyone else that had a fax machine.
Still no word. A few weeks passed. Then I received a call that I’ll never forget. It was human resources wanting to set up an interview. They would even fly me out there to visit the hospital. I didn’t know they would do that. I knew that if this was the place that we would be moving to I needed Jeannette to come with me. The town in question has a tiny airport and not many flights in or out. Of course the flight I am taking was the most expensive way time to fly. We scraped together $466 to get her a flight. It was the last of our savings.
We couldn’t leave our 4 month old home so he came with us.
I remember the day that we landed in Pasco, Washington. It was the smallest airport I had ever seen. They told me to get my baggage from the baggage claim past terminal “B”. Terminal “B” is a door next to Terminal “A” which was another door. We had to wake up a guy to open it.
But we were excited. Neither of us had ever been to Washington State. We get our rental car and follow the map to Richland, Washington. But wait. Where is the rain? Where is the green hills? It looks just like Albuquerque. Is it a sign. No, just tumbleweeds.
After my interview we have 18 hours to drive around and decide if this is the place. Again, I remember the conversation. Sitting in Red Robin, at that time one of the only restaurants we knew of. We looked out over the city and made the decision. At least for now this is the place.
A week later we were driving up with a half empty U-haul ready to begin our lives anew. Living in a new town that you don’t know is scary. We had no family, no friends. Just us and our little boys.
We needed to meet people. But how do you do that if you don’t know anybody? It’s hard. We started going to a church in Kennewick, Word of Faith Center. There my wife made a good friend who connected her with a woman’s group mostly made up of young women and new mothers. The friends she made there are still her friends today.
But what do I do? Well, I did what any self respecting man does. I went online. I remember hearing about a website called Twitter. I had signed up a year before but I never used it. So I gave it another shot. I realized that you could follow people who had created accounts near you. So I followed everyone that was within 25 miles. Then I followed all the people that they knew that were local as well.
It’s funny how even though I didn’t know these people I knew a lot about them. Back when twitter was just starting up it wasn’t as crowded as it is today. I saw their lives unfolding. I felt like I knew them but in reality I didn’t. One day I got a direct message from Adam Brault. We had been talking on twitter and he asked how I felt about an idea he had for a group of likeminded individuals in the Tri-Cities.
The first Doctype Society meeting was planned. I was so excited to meet all these people I had known for a few months. The day of the first meeting comes and I got really, really, really sick. I wasn’t able to go. But like always, I could stalk from the internet. I saw the pictures from the first meeting at &yet. It made me excited for the next meeting.
I was actually able to go to the next meeting. It was great! I was sitting in a room of people that I felt like I knew. They understood me. There were talks on programming and design and color theory and even how to build confidence. A little bit for everyone. I felt more comfortable among this group of people than any in a long time.
Over the years people some new faces have come and some friends have gone. It’s still a place to go where there are other people that just “get you”.
So back to my original question. What is it that makes a city great? To me it’s the community. It’s the people you meet and the people you know. Sharing life together.
We came here planning to stay a year and then to move on.
But you know what?
This is my home now. This is my community.
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