Friday, December 22, 2006

All I Want For Christmas Are Readers' Comments

by Kyle Michaelis
An early Christmas present came in Wednesday night, responding to my post last week about "Nebraska's brain drain" and the harsh realities of life as a young, progressive Nebraskan just wanting to make a difference. Elisabeth wrote:
It is challenging to decide to stay/return to Nebraska. Like Scott [Kleeb], I too had the East Coast Ivy experience, and the opportunities many of my classmates are pursuing all around the world do, from time to time, make me wonder what the hell I'm doing here.

But I know why I came back. I love living here. I love being able to enjoy the natural environment. I like living comfortably without a lot of money.

The catch, however, is the lack of good full-time jobs for those who want them. It's also the lack of amenities like a major airport nearby, or a good public transit system. When we're young, many of us want to live the life of young, urban professionals, not soccer moms and dads. We want a safe way to get home from the bars, classy apartments, fine dining, and quality entertainment, and don't yet care about traffic in the suburbs. Others of us would like to be able to take over the farm without feeling like it's a dead end road with nothing but debt ahead. We'd like to preserve the tradition of ranching, live on our grandparents' land, because it means something to us.

It's not just scholarships our state needs to provide. Fine and good, but we need the infrastructure and support readily available for young Nebraskans regardless of whether they attend college. [W]e need support after they graduate, and likewise need support for those entering the working world from any place in life. Career education classes in high school? Close to worthless; you have no idea at 16 where you'll want to be at 21. It might cost us some money to make a viable presence of the kind of job placement/small business support infrastructure we need to keep young Nebraskans around, but really, what is the cost of losing us?

I want to thank Elisabeth for such a thoughtful response, as well as everyone else who reads and participates in NNN's running conversation about the future of Nebraska.

I also want to put in a shameless plug for the on-going debate between myself and Gary Brown of Nebraska Fair Tax about the feasibility and desirability of adopting a national sales tax. I hope the discussion will continue and certainly invite readers (following Eric's lead) to jump in with comments of their own or with questions for Gary or myself.

With Christmas coming up, I can't promise a whole lot of activity around the site, but that's no reason to let our brains and our passions go on holiday. Please, fire away!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle -

While I don't think I'll comment on the whole "fair tax" issue, I do want to wish you and your readers a very Happy Holiday season.

Glad to see that the New Nebraska Network will do a great service to all of us, as will your new contributors.



Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...

I actually was referring to the Eric who'd already posted 2 insightful comments in the "FairTax" discussion. But, hey, maybe that's the secret. If I just mention random names of readers, maybe I can badger them into commenting. Blogging by intimidation ... brilliant idea!

And, happy holidays to you, Mr. Fought (aka Eric #2).

Blogger Eric said...

Sorry for the confusion to all the other Erics out there. Although I didn't mean to monopolize the name, I've never been big on aliases. However, I certainly don't mind being called Eric #1.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Kyle please dont. Anyone interested in blogging by intimidation just need pull up Leavenworth Street and enter the den of insults that hack posts every day.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I can settle for #2!


Blogger Gary Brown said...

Merry Christmas to all.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle: I have enjoyed reading your blog since I came across it during the election season, and have recommended it to many. I don't post very often, mostly because I feel unqualified to speak too much on the many topics that your site helps to enlighten me on. (The "Fair Tax" issue being such that I had a hard time getting my head wrapped around.)

As far as the "brain drain" issue...I see it all from a fairly different perspective, being that my living in Nebraska now is largely a byproduct of such. I grew up in Scottsbluff since the age of 3 and got a degree in Broadcast Journalism from UNL. I followed my preferred career trajectory toward the East Coast after graduation from college and spent nearly 5 years working in my field out there.
In the summer of 2000, at the age of 27, I moved back to western Nebraska after tiring of the whole scene. I loved my job & the people I worked with, but I longed to be closer to my family and grew to respect many of the aspects of "the Good Life" that I had left behind. I guess absence makes the heart grow fonder, I suppose.
Since then, I've been involved in working with my folks to expand my family's restaurant business (headquartered in Scottsbluff for over 30 years.) I met and married my wife (a beautiful and wonderful Nebraska gal.) Generally, I find life to be much more fulfilling than that which I experienced in living on the East Coast while working for the corporate-owned national media.

My point is that it took that absence to make my heart grow fonder...much maturation often takes place as one goes through their mid-20's and the desire for youthful excitement fades in favor of more mature needs and interests. When I was a teenager, I often felt that the grass was greener, and watching television and movies made me yearn for the excitement of the big cities on the coasts. But it took me actually going out and exploring those places to find how green it was to begin with right here at home. Both my wife and I live in the same town as both of our families. I walk to and from work most days; I can walk downtown to go to a bar on the infrequent occasion that I care to go out for a drink; I can pretty much walk anywhere I want to in town, if necessary, in less than 15-20 minutes. I enjoy bicycling and exploring the natural wonders that western Nebraska has to offer...sites that were left neglected and unexamined in the days of my youth. I see friends and neighbors that I haven't seen or spoken to in years and catch up with their lives and families.
I've found that many people my own age share an often similar story. Over half of my close friends from college (many of whom were student leaders and otherwise heavily involved in the campus leadership) live in Nebraska or a neighboring state, while the others live in a variety of cool places that offer plenty of vacation options (in all directions) for those of us living in the midwest. So while I don't know much about the facts and figures and stats and numbers...I can speak only from my own personal experience--which has dictated that while I was once a victim of the "brain drain", I personally feel that I'm living proof that it's not always as detrimental to the future of our state as it is sometimes made out to be, as many find life down the drain to be less appealing and ultimately return home.

In my time out east, my work enabled me to travel to almost every large American city. So I now have the perspective of being able to understand that the same movies are playing in every theater every week, the same beers are tapped in every bar, the same 100 channels of nothing are piped through every cable system. Malls across the land are filled with the same stores, stocked with the same goods. If all of this isn't enough, you can buy or sell anything and communicate with anyone, anywhere about anything (provided that you have a computer with an internet connection) regardless of if you are in New York or Timbuktu. In short, as Thomas Friedman indicates...the world has become flat and more and more people are realizing that the low cost of living the simple life in small town America can indeed be a viable option.

I just wanted to say to add my two cents and thank for your ongoing efforts and reasoned takes on serious subjects. Keep fighting the good fight in '07! I'll keep reading and letting others know of the good work you're doing!

Blogger Kyle Michaelis said...


I'm glad you found your way back to Nebraska. Our state's potential for bringing young people back when they are ready to settle down, buy a home, and start a family was one of the most intriguing talking points I heard from David Hahn in his 2006 campaign for Governor.

By focusing on home ownership and property taxes, Hahn even seemed to think our quality of life could be sufficient to attract non-natives. I remain skeptical that these largely undiscussed initiatives would have proven so fruitful, but your story leads me to hope we can at least avoid the worst and most tragic losses by being prepared to embrace the future while protecting that which we cherish most about Nebraska's way of life.

Please keep in touch and never hesitate to toss your two cents into our little online wishing well that hopefully stands as a building block towards the progressive vision we share and the community it needs to become a reality.


Post a Comment

<< Home