Ten years ago, I was 17 and convinced that I was going to move away from Maine. I couldn’t pinpoint any particular reason why I always planned to move away, although I was definitely still pissed off at the vote against gay marriage that had happened that year, and I had no plans to live in a place where I couldn’t get legally married to a woman. (Fortunately, our state fixed that a few years later, before I graduated from college.) But I figured I’d move to a big city because that’s sort of what young people just did (or at least most of the ones I knew).

After college, I moved back home because I couldn’t afford to do anything else, but eventually I realized that I actually liked Maine quite a lot and wanted to stay. Forever, if possible.

I’ve had people ask me what can Maine do to make sure its young people stay here, or move here to raise families, and I don’t have any silver-bullet solid answers. I can speak only for myself, and for those of you familiar with “The Lord of the Rings,” I’m basically a hobbit. I’m not fond of adventures; I like to stay close to home, to have a predictable routine, to feel my roots daily. I’ve always preferred a slower pace to my life. I’m also not a hugely social person. I’ve been told that it’s time for me, as a youth, to sow some wild oats, but I’m more of a garden type.

Maine can’t compete with places like New York City and Austin and Los Angeles and Chicago in terms of size and culture and cool clubs to party in. We simply can’t. We have to lean into what we are good at – nature, more nature, lots of nature, breweries – and, I guess, build a name for ourselves that way.

Not to say there aren’t more things we could do. Maine desperately needs more affordable rental housing. We’re a great state if you want to buy a house in the middle of the woods, but young people can’t afford to buy houses, so they have to rent, preferably somewhere near their workplace. And right now, rentals are concentrated in our few city areas, and almost all new construction is of high-end and market-rate units, which I guess is better than nothing, but not affordable for most millennials. We also need to make sure we have good jobs, with actual benefits and decent pay. Improved state spending on public schools would be good, too, because, with a few notable exceptions (Falmouth, Cape Elizabeth), most of our public school systems are dealing with tight-belt budgets. Not enough students, not enough property taxes. More public transportation (millennials are very conscious of their carbon emissions). Child care funding (in case we scrape enough money to have a kid in the first place).

And – as tough as it is – we have to start being nicer to people from away. In addition to creating a healthy economic environment for people to come and put down roots in, we also have to make sure the cultural environment is welcoming, too. You can have the most fertile soil in the world, but if it floods every single day, nothing will ever grow there. (Right? Is that how plants work? I’m more familiar with metaphors than I am with farming.) And we really have to get more people to move to Maine. We’re one of the only states with more deaths than births. I’m not an expert in sociological economics or anything, but that seems like a bad statistic.

I also have ulterior motives for wanting lots of twentysomethings and thirtysomethings to move to Maine. I’m single now and I need to maximize my chances of meeting someone, which means I need as deep and well-stocked a pond as possible. (I am more familiar with metaphors than I am with fishing.)

If you’d asked me 10 years ago where I would be at the turn of the next decade, I doubt I would have predicted anything about my current life situation (with the possible exception of the rescue dog). So I’m not going to predict where I’ll be at the end of another decade (except there will probably be a dog involved somehow). All I can say is that I hope I will still be in Maine, and I will do whatever I can to make that happen.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemillennial

 


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