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Living In Portland

Quality of Life Requires a Quantity of Opportunity

Like many of my generation, I spent a year after my college graduation in the other Portland, where I'd also been a student. The bike lanes and parks were nice, but working the same mind-numbing lifeguarding job I'd labored in all through my college years was a drag. I'd naively thought that my degree in math and economics would be practical, but whenever a promising job opening appeared, I found myself competing against hundreds of other highly qualified, under-employed people just like me.

There's a problem I have with the phrase "quality of life" as it's most commonly used. Where's the "quality" of a life in a place where you need to spend half of your income on rent for a lousy apartment, where there's no time to spend on your own creative pursuits, and where PhD's are fighting over barista jobs at Starbucks?

Portland, Maine, does have a fair share of the conventional "quality of life" amenities, and they're showcased extensively here on this blog (oceanside parks, good coffee, public art, etcetera).

These are great things to have, no doubt about it. But we also have two things in spades that you won't find in Manhattan, Austin, or San Francisco: opportunity and egalitarianism.

These qualities mean that Portland is still a place where a newcomer can arrive, meet people, and set up a successful new business on a shoestring. It hardly matters whether that newcomer is from Santa Monica or from the horn of Africa. Our city is affordable, connected, and wholeheartedly supportive of small enterprise (this website is but one example, closest at hand).

Still, our sense of economic opportunity and egalitarianism will be harder to maintain as the city grows and becomes more successful.

As LiveWork Portland's newest blogger, I'm looking forward to crowing more about the city's more affordable, more authentic quality of life. I hope that this can, in some small part, help attract to Portland more people who share our egalitarian, hardworking values — and by doing so, help to strengthen those civic virtues for our entire city's future.

Stuyvesant Town photo (above right) by Flickr user EssG.

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