There are a number of facts about my life that my teenage self would scoff at in disbelief. One of these is that I’ve been working remotely for years and can live anywhere I choose. A more surprising fact is that I choose to stay in Springfield.
I’ve lived in Springfield – Missouri’s version – most of my life. I know how strong the desire can be to “get out” and move to somewhere that seems more exciting. Younger Jordan dreamed of living various lives in New York, San Francisco, Austin, Chicago – anywhere new and big. But as I’ve grown up, I’ve also gained a different perspective. I have learned there’s a lot here to appreciate, and a lot I took for granted.
A huge reason Springfield has remained my home centers around our community. Before you roll your eyes at how cliched this sounds, let me give some concrete examples. When I was a month postpartum, I found myself in a lot of pain waiting overnight at CoxHealth. I was panicked and trying to figure out how to feed my newborn baby, whom I could not breastfeed that night. I posted in a local mom Facebook group I’d recently joined for suggestions, and you know what happened? A woman I’d never met drove across town to give us some donor milk. They do say it takes a village, but in that moment I truly felt it. I’d found a good village and I was grateful.
I’ve watched the strength of this community show itself in lots of ways: seeing thousands come out to support local artists at Artsfest, friends coordinating a benefit concert at Patton Alley when one of their group was diagnosed with cancer, a yearly memorial workout for the loss of a gym member’s child, the volunteers at nonprofits working hour after hour just to help the people around them.
Larger cities have more people, events and user groups. It can often seem like it’ll be easier to learn, grow and develop with all these resources. With so many people, it’s possible to do something stronger together. On the other hand, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. It’s hard to have a really cohesive community.
As a part of the Springfield tech community, I have made bonds with people that will last a lifetime. I was even able to start my own user group, Springfield Women in Tech, which has grown to over 300 members. Our meetups typically have the same core members attending, with new members joining at a rate where we can maintain the closeness we’ve built. These resources and relationships often turn into new job prospects, leadership opportunities and individual recognition.
I know there are many wonderful communities out there, so it can’t be the only thing keeping myself and others put.
Another huge factor in this decision is the comfort and flexibility of living here. If you look at the cost of living in Springfield (on BestPlaces.net, where 100 is the national average), we’re rated 82.3, compared to say, San Francisco (which has a strong tech community) and its super high 269.3 rating. Our housing costs are even lower at 59.1, meaning you can often find the home of your dreams within your budget.
Since I do work remotely, a lot of my time is spent with my family, and I want us to live comfortably. Living in this area affords us the chance to do just that. It also means we’re able to save money more easily and travel to some beautiful destinations. Being centrally located in the United States allows us to road trip easily or hop over to St. Louis and fly across the country. I definitely don’t envy my California colleagues when they tell me the price of housing there!
Another thing hard to find elsewhere is opportunity. Our midsize city might not be nationally known, but I choose to see this as a chance to grow. This area is ripe with opportunity if you go looking: nonprofit boards to join where you can really make a difference in people’s lives, entrepreneurship ideas just waiting to be fulfilled, meetup groups to form, businesses to expand, companies looking for innovation and creativity, events to host, apps to build and columns to write.
I was shocked when there were no “women in tech” groups around, so I took that opportunity to make one and it’s thrived. I’ve been honored in the community with awards as well, and I know that would have been a lot harder to accomplish in New York or San Francisco. I’ve seen all the hard work done for the Efactory’s accelerator program to boost entrepreneurship. It sometimes feels like opportunities are around every corner.
If you want a life of comfort in an incredible community, look no further. You can also take your life in nearly any direction you would like, if you look around for it.
Springfield isn’t the most enticing city at first glance, but it can be a hidden gem. I’m thankful I took a step back and found the beauty where I am instead of hopping on the first plane out of here. I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon, and I’m excited to see where the future takes us. As more employers give everyone freedom to choose where to place their roots, I hope others choose Springfield, too.
Jordan McAdoo is a lead iOS engineer for StitchFix.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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