Recently, I was offered a serious opportunity at a great job (a promotion, in fact), predicated on relocation to Chicago. Imagine that, young St. Louisan (if, in fact you are a young St. Louisan): statistically, you spend your days in the Lou complaining about how lame our city is, how we don't have the lakes, how Oprah doesn't tape here, how much better Wrigleyville is than, well, Busch-wasteland (yeah, yeah, the village'll fix all that; whatever)...we don't even have a freakin' Ikea! And then, like a goose flying over and dropping the golden egg in your lap, there it is your get out of St. Louis free card. And to Chicago! It's everything we want to be!
And I said no thanks.
For an incorrigible job-switcher like me, the surprise was that I wasn't itching to move on, professionally. I mean, I never met a job I wouldn't quit, and at five years at my current post, I've more than doubled my second-longest stint in a job. Generational, I think, since my cohort and I have wised-up to the lack of a 50-years-plus-golden-watch environment in today's workplace. But the fact is, my job kicks ass: I explore St. Louis and tell other people what's cool about it. I get paid to write, which, in a town bursting at the seams with Mizzou j-school grads and would-be writers, is no mean feat. I work with people I like. I go home at the end of the day and leave it all behind. If I could do it all in my pajamas, it'd be Career Nirvana.
Of course, corporate culture frowns on lack of ambition, so when this most recent opportunity fell from the sky, I had to pretend I would think about it. You'd be amazed at how, "Nope, thanks, I'm happy where I am and really, more responsibility probably isn't what I'm looking for," gets you disinvited from all the important meetings. But even as I was hearing the pitch, I was thinking, well, "nope."
Because I wouldn't live any other life, right now, than the one I'm living, right now. I'm not afraid I couldn't hack it elsewhere, but in my ripe old age (32), I've decided there's nothing wrong with being satisfied. Comfortable. Content. I have a great job, friends who amuse and inspire and embrace me, easy access to half of the family (and comfortable distance from others; I'll let them assume who's who), community and civic involvement that engages me, relationships built up over years, a home project that's finally getting off the seven-year starting block...there's not a Chicago-shaped hole in my heart.
It's only in the dark nights of the soul that I'm gripped by the looming question: "Are you going to live your whole life in St. Louis?" (Well, I at least have the out that I'm not from around here, so I'm here by choice, which is the only superiority folks in my situation have over those boomerang St. Louisans we all hear stories about: they grew up here, went to high school wherever, went to the big city wherever, but when it came time to "raise a family"...)
And the answer is I don't know. I don't know if I'll take off for a year in Paris next week. I don't know if I'll always regret not living in New York, where all my high-school friends ended up, at least for a time. I don't know if I'll ever make it home to live in the South of my childhood, teaching my kids to call their grandfather "Pawpaw" and eat hushpuppies. But for the moment, my life is whole, and I'm living my whole life in St. Louis.
Amanda E. Doyle will still entertain career offers.