Should I?

Stop - photograph by Jennifer GregerShould I stay or should I go?
– Clash

"Why should I stay in the New River Valley?" asks Allen J. Fuller, III.

To me, underlying the question is the premise that people should stay somewhere and need reasons to do so.  Why should I stay in the New River Valley of Virginia?  In Silicon Valley?  In Paris?  In Borneo? 

Should anyone stay anywhere?

Although I've seen no official announcement that a local company's founders have moved to the headquarters of the company that acquired it, their Twitter streams self-report that they are no longer local residents.

Should they have stayed?

"Should" is a form of "shall" which implies "an order, promise, or obligation."

Try these on for size:  "I order you to stay.  You promised you would stay.  You're under an obligation to stay."

The heaviness of those sentences saps my spirit and creativity.  And Allen points out that's the opposite of what people seek:  "…inspiration, people to dream and work with and businesses and localities that value their contributions."
In his latest post, Allen refers to my latest post in our dialogue on regional economic development, An Entrepreneur in Every Garage.  While that post discusses economic development in the New River Valley of Virginia and, therefore, garages in that locale, I'm glad to have an opportunity to clarify.  I think developing a culture of entrepreneurship as a model could fuel economic development in any locale's garages.  My company just happens to be currently based in this locale.

Allen asks, "So I ask, if you had the chance to talk to someone under 30…"

Having been fortunate to live a half century of an adventure-filled life in many places, I find myself less and less willing to give advice to anyone.  The more I see, the less I have to say and the more respect I have for a an individual's life path.

If I had a chance to talk to my 30-year-old self, I would say this:  "Spend less thought and heart and time on 'should' and 'obligation.' Give that thought and heart and time to living, loving and working in ways that are meaningful to you."

I have found living a meaningful life is not place-dependent.  I can stay or I can go.  Both work.

Allen continues, "So I ask, if you had the chance to talk to someone under 30, single and talented, who felt that trying to live and work in the NRV was a waste of time, what would you say?"

I'd say I think the wording of that question might contain its own answer.

Photo credit:  Jennifer Greger

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  1. I’m over 30 now… but as I’ve told many people in my life, I’m a newer model with a lot of miles.

    The question you posed, if an under 30 something were to ask me, would get this response…

    “Your life is what you make of it. If you make it a waste of time, it will be.”

    I’m a city girl by heart, having spent many years in Philadelphia. For a long time, I missed everything the city had to offer that Roanoke didn’t. It wasn’t until I moved here the FOURTH time, that I embraced it… and now? I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

    Life is what you make of it… no matter where you are. And there are opportunities here, many of them. Sometimes, you just have to widen your field of view.

    Great post! Always making people think! I like it!

  2. Heather great thoughts. I second them. The one thing I have come to realize after moving a few times myself is that each place is right for some people…and not for others. It is up to each person to know what they like & dislike and seek it out. Unfortunately, too many people want one-size-fits-all.

  3. Thank you Anne,

    You took a completely different perspective than I expected. As I was writing I was concerned I could annoy some people, suggesting that there are some that have a hard time living here.

    Especially with universities the size of VT and Radford in the area most people should only be here for a few years and go out and be part of the larger world.

    Maybe the emotion I was trying to express but missed was the experience of watching (granted of only a few, I have no evidence that this is wide-spread) some make the move from “Let’s see what we can do here!” to “Why should I stay?”

    For my part I am considering if that change is proof that they need to travel a bit or indicative that there is something (community, an accessible support structure, etc) that is missing. I am not sure.

    But thank you again Anne, I appreciate your perspective and take on my question!

  4. I’m dual-homed now. Blacksburg and Austin. The term “moved” is inaccurate. We are committed to growing our software development presence in Blacksburg.

  5. Thanks Allen and Bill for your comments. Moved or not, here or there, my point is that I think individuals best serve the world when they pursue their talents and cultivate their gifts. May that be true for both of you – and for all of us – wherever we happen to be at the time.

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