The Young Professional

When Andrew McKeever [Man aging Editor of The Journal and my boss] and I discussed me writing about my experience as a "young professional" in Manchester, I expected it to be easy. One of those stories that just pours out as my fingers fly across the keyboard, my hands barely able to keep up with the racing thoughts floating through my head. Instead, I found it difficult. How could I articulate everything I wanted to say about my particular experience living here, when it is so different and equally like so many others? I got nervous that I would offend people, or sound too dramatic or just silly. Instead, I'll just try to be as honest as possible and really give you a glimpse of what my young professional experience is like.

I have never done anything easy in my life, always choosing to take the more complicated and difficult path. When I was applying to colleges, they recommended we apply to about five schools. I sent in nearly 30 applications. In college, instead of choosing one major, I had three. When most people were spending their Senior year spring out partying I was planning an academic conference and finishing up a thesis. When I graduated, I planned on joining the Peace Corps. But that changed. And now, here I sit writing this column in Manchester.

I didn't plan on moving to Vermont. If you talked to me this time last year, I would have thought I would be somewhere on the African continent at this point, or at least back in my second home of Nepal. Instead, I'm here, working as a journalist and learning to love this truly bizarre and unique state.

I had never been to Vermont before I packed up my trusty car and moved. My only frame of reference for New England were my trips to Boston and the show "Gilmore Girls." So I had no idea what to expect. I knew it would be cold and I knew there was really great maple syrup, but that was about it.

I didn't expect it to be so difficult to find a place to live I could afford or that I would have to work three jobs just to make ends meet. I never thought it would take me so long to make any friends or that the entire town would close down around 8 p.m. I knew rural life can be a bit boring at times, but I never expected to feel as isolated as I did when I first moved.

Manchester is great, but it almost seems like a place that was built to be visited, not to live in. Yet there is this fierce sense of community and tradition that many cling to. Its a fascinating combination that I've never experienced before. Growing up in the Midwest, we don't have select board meetings or Town Meeting day, events I now love attending.

I might be an outsider, but it is difficult to be young and live here. Everyday, I drive from my home in Londonderry to work in Manchester and get to see the beauty the Green Mountains have to offer, the sun glittering off freshly fallen snow, the mountains white against a blue sky. But that beauty sometimes can't make up for the lack of opportunity. I'm sick of talking to established business owners about the idea of changes in the business community and told to work harder. I'm tired of hearing that I have to start a business to be successful in Manchester. I want to see Manchester move into the future with innovative solutions to careers, not sink farther into the past.

I've been lucky to find other like minded young people in the area. Contrary to what some think, not everyone under 30 is shooting up heroin in their spare time. There are young people out there, like Erynn Hazlett, who passionately love Vermont and want to create sustainable communities that youth want to live in. But, the lack of careers and fear of change can be a big wall to scale. I know there have been many days when another blizzard rolls through and I have to work straight through another weekend when I ask myself if living here and working for basically no money is worth it. Days when I get frustrated by the opinions many people have about young people and when I get called "kiddo" multiple times during interviews. But I think living in Vermont is worth it.

The sheer natural beauty of this place takes my breathe away daily. Sure, it's expensive and it takes at least an hour to get to Target, which can really stink sometimes. But the sense of community that exists here, the neighbors who have known each other their whole lives is incredible. It reminds me of home.

I know most people leave Vermont for bigger cities when they're my age. And I understand why they do. But the idea that people should leave and come back after they've made a career isn't sustainable. Instead, Manchester should try and attract some type of industry that will attract more people my age. Something that people can build a life on - not just a job at one of the outlets or a restaurant in town.

One of the most positive experiences I've had since moving to this area was helping to get Northshire Young Professionals started. Erynn and I were chatting one day and decided a place to network and try to create sustainable change was something young people in this are needed. What I think is the amazing about the group we have so far is only three people out of the 10 that attended were Vermonters. All the others, myself included, hailed from somewhere else. To me, that's a positive statement not just about Manchester, but Vermont in general.

Vermont is not an easy place to live. Manchester is not a place that really has many professional, white collar careers outside of finance, it seems. But people still want to come here and start out. People who can help foster growth in the area and make this area an even more amazing place than it already is.

My experience living here so far has been full of frustration, stress and lots of snow. But I've also met some incredible people I love, interviewed a U.S. Senator, been featured on Vermont Public Radio and learned how to slow down and relax a bit. Living as a young professional in the Northshire is not necessarily the easy choice, but it was my choice. And I'm not the only one.


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