As I apply for jobs, many of which, for better or worse, are at academic institutions, I keep having a nagging feeling tugging at the back of my mind, like the tantrum-throwing three year old desperate for that Yo Gabba Gabba doll tears at her parent's arm in aisle 14 of the local Target. This pressing thought which brings me so much strife: I'm just not sure if I can take living in yet another land-grant college town.
Don't get me wrong—there are many great things about living in a college town. Life is generally quite pleasant and quiet, save football weekends. The cost of living is usually fantastic. They also tend to be family friendly, with quaint little farmers' markets and little local restaurants and shops. They also tend to be fairly progressive and open-minded, and support culture and art to a greater extent than you'd expect from such a small population.
Yes, for many people, a college town is a rather idyllic place. There is a specific subpopulation in these college towns, however, for whom the experience becomes utterly hopeless. This subpopulation: those who move to college towns, are not college-aged, and arrive without a significant other. Meet those requirements, and you're basically hosed until you escape. It is the bog of eternal singlehood.
I mean, let's take an honest look at the candidates in the dating pool in a college town for those who already hold one or more higher education degrees:
- College kids: I'm sorry, did you not see the word "kids" there?
- Grad students: Emotionally unstable semi-adults who incorrectly concluded that the panacea to their life problems was to get yet another degree.
- Postdocs: Does the sound of frantic typing as they try to finish their latest lit review during the act of love-making turn you on?
- Junior faculty: Ah, the less youthful, less healthy, more stressed versions of postdocs. Yes, I'm sure you had a good reason behind that choice...
- Staff: They probably arrived there because of a significant other; if they are single at this point, they're looking for an opportunity to flee, not to stay.
- Hipster/Hippie Townies: It's okay, so long as their friends never find out they're sleeping with you. Oh wait, it's a small college town...
- Folk in the surrounding countryside: don't be surprised if you're viewed an over-educated, heathen, pinko socialist who never learned how to do anything actually useful (all of which could be accurate assessments)
- People in the nearest city... five hours away: They're already pairing up with equally smart, young, attractive, better-paid competition that had the foresight to not force the issue of a long-distance relationship on the first date.
As a consolation, you will find great friends, for whom your sad, lonely, single self will serve as a reminder of why they need to stay committed to their own relationships.
With complete seriousness, I've found a tremendous amount of personal growth in the college towns I've inhabited for the past twelve years, and certainly, the quality of friends I've found in them has been unsurpassed. I admit that location is really only one part of the whole romantic equation.
Anyway, we'll see what the future brings. Maybe I'll finally join the young guns in a big ol' city, myself. Or maybe I'll find the the one who breaks the mold. Or maybe it'll just be the status quo, but hey, there are far worse bogs out there!