There is a big difference between growing up somewhere and actually choosing to live there.
Many young professionals find themselves far from their hometown in post-college lives, tackling a bigger city and traveling the world. Our generation is fortunate to have a period in our twenties where we can afford life in bigger cities while we are unmarried and, more importantly, childfree. In keeping with the trend, I posted up in Manhattan and took every chance to travel – West Coast, Europe, Mexico, Costa Rica, Thailand, you name it – I’ve been fortunate enough to see beautiful cities, experience different cultures, and meet incredible people.
There comes a time, however, in this post-college bliss, where you start to picture the “adult” version of your current lifestyle and career. If you start considering property ownership, marriage and/or having children in New York City, things escalate quickly. Supporting one 20-something with food and shelter is one thing, but saving money, investing in real estate, and raising a family is quite another. Even if you opt for the more “affordable” areas of Brooklyn or Manhattan, raising a child in a 1-bedroom 4th floor walk-up where the cheapest childcare option more than doubles monthly rent doesn’t sound like a picnic. Neither does prenatally applying to cutthroat pre-K programs, carting a stroller onto the subway, or selling your first-born to secure a spot in the only reasonable co-op building in Chelsea.
And regardless of these big city options, I’d still be 250 miles from my mother.
“You can always move back to Rochester!”, was her voice in my head every time I started feeling claustrophobic in my tiny apartment or sick of the 4am DJ scene in Williamsburg. My reaction to that voice evolved over my five years there, from “LOL” to “Maybe once I’ve lived in another city.” Our generation is programmed to NEED these other experiences and view our hometowns as lame, dated, and backwards. Despite mounting doubts about “big city” life, I didn’t think I could ever return home. This is where I was wrong.
Rochester is trendy. Rochester has a hipster scene that makes those trust-fund-babies in Williamsburg look like posers. Rochester has waterfront access EVERYWHERE. Rochester has nationally ranked cocktail bars, impressive restaurants, a killer public market, and coffee shops galore. Rochester has 2,500 sq ft houses for 200k. Rochester has a plethora of local craft breweries. Rochester has access to the Finger Lakes region, the Adirondacks, and Toronto, all within 3 hours and you won’t sit in traffic for an hour BEFORE starting that drive. Rochester has a vibrant arts scene including galleries, museums, summer festivals, internationally recognized music and theater. Rochester has Wegmans. I repeat, Rochester has Wegmans.
Aside from all of the fun things to do, eat, drink and see, Rochester has some pretty great people. Rochestarians tend to be down-to-earth, well-educated, and funny. If we were a celebrity, we’d be Chris Farley, Bill Murray or Jennifer Lawrence. Sure, we also have some Snookies, but the Bills fans keep them at bay. Rochester is also ranked in the top 10 large cities for our volunteer rate, with more than half of residents donating to charity. Not too shabby.
To top it all off, you actually have TIME to enjoy the high-quality friends you make because a “9 to 5” actually exists here. There are plenty of very hardworking residents, but there is a notable prioritization of family and friends that has come to fruition because the affordable lifestyle here allows for it. Furthermore, when you’re done setting your money on fire by paying rent, you can be a homeowner and still have disposable income for leisure and travel.
The key to all of this is, your suburban childhood experience is nothing like adulthood in downtown Rochester. This city has a lot to offer, if only you open your eyes and seek things out. Better yet, if you think Rochester is missing something or identify an area where the city needs improvement, you can take action and actually make an impact here.
The merits of smaller-city life are endless, and the best part is, New York City is only a weekend trip away.