I was fortunate to be invited to be a guest on MPBN Maine Calling last week. The topic of the show was “What Does it Mean to be Young In Maine?” The other guests included fellow BDN blogger Emily Stoddard Burnham, Chace Joe Jackson (with whom I am happy to have become acquainted when I produced Food Coma TV), and Garrett Martin, Executive Director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy.
We each discussed our various backgrounds. Emily spoke to living in Bangor and getting a job at the BDN fresh out of college, Chace to working on his Dad’s campaign up in Allagash. I talked about living in Cornish with my wife and daughter. I grew up in the town and moved back home in 2009 when I came back to the state to take care of my father before he died.
I spoke to my somewhat conflicted relationship with living in the state and doing business here. I left Maine, got some experience working in various fields, started to feel as though I was on track and then my career was derailed upon my return because it is particularly difficult to find a path as a young creative in this state. It took me a long, stumbling while to rebuild. One of the very few realistic options for the young person trying to find their way in their career path is to wing it and find their own way, which is what I have done to some success over time, and which has led to the creation of Knack Factory along with my partners there. There are many positive aspects of forging your own path here, but you sort of have to be a bit of a pioneer and create something from scratch. Sometimes you just want to work and then go home and don’t think about work anymore, but that isn’t so much of an option when you go this way. My friends, peers and colleagues in the various cities I lived in before coming back to Maine were seemingly able to more easily access these sorts of positions and experiences, and to gain relevant and institutional experience earlier on in their professional lives. I was derailed by moving back to the state, it felt, because the many opportunities that were readily in front of me in New York were no longer accessible from here in Maine, and so I spent a good deal of time trying out to figure out how to rebuild. I am fortunate in that I have friends who are slightly older in the state who serve as mentors. These include the folks at Might + Main, and my clients at Terra Speakers. They each have long helped to steer me into the right direction when I don’t know what the Hell I am doing.
And I am happy to be living here in the state. You choose to live in Maine and you figure out how to make it work, I have heard many say, and it very much applies to myself. I am happy to have a house, a big garden, fresh air, proximity to amazing restaurants and bars, and music venues. I am happy that we are raising our daughter here. I am fortunate, too, to have created a position that gets me out of the state to see other art, to hear other music, to know other people, so that I can appreciate Maine both from inside and out. I am always happy to come hope.
It is also important to note, as I did in the show, that my business would not be doing as well as it currently is if it wasn’t for the fact that my wife had been our primary breadwinner while I was getting it off the ground. Now that this role is starting to create in our house economic parity between partners, my wife is getting to a point where she has hit a ceiling in her position. Similar positions within her field are greatly limited here in Maine, so conversations about how we can continue to expand our careers while living here are commonplace in our household. Living in Maine can be sweet, as I outlined above, but the challenges facing young people can be many.
(And it is not lost on me that the problems I am discussing are primarily ones of varying degrees of luxury, while many young folks in this state are faced with little-to-no opportunities to begin with due to a number of socioeconomic factors.)
Anyhow, you can hear the whole interview here. Emily, Chace and Garrett offer great insights, and you can hear my insights as well. What do you think? What does being a young person in Maine mean to you?