“Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.” - Horace Greely, 1865*
College graduation season has arrived, meaning a lot of grads will decide to stay or go, but many will let fear prevent them from relocating to chase their dreams in a new city.
One year ago, I arrived in San Francisco with everything I owned in my car. I left Columbus, Ohio to plant my startup in more fertile ground. The last call I got before crossing the Ohio-Indiana border was from a local investor. He heard I was heading west, was calling to change my mind, and wanted us to be the first deal in a new fund. It all sounded rather uncertain, and I determined to be a distraction. I told him my mind was made up. I hung up the phone, cranked up “Born to Be Wild,” rolled the window down, hit the gas, and watched Ohio disappear.
Since then, I’ve lost touch with a good number of people, but fortunately new cities hold new people, Google invented Hangouts, and beers taste just as good over the phone as they do over a table. My company, LaunchGram, didn’t quite work out, but now I’m working on something I love a whole lot more. All of my pre-moving anxiety was silly, and chances are so is yours.
After graduating I almost moved to the Bay Area, but couldn’t pull the trigger. With a girlfriend I loved, friends I cherished, and a job that paid well, the thought of leaving all that behind felt selfish and intimidating. Instead I stayed put, but each month the gravity of San Francisco grew stronger.
Late one night at a bar, a friend of mine put it to me straight and said, “Which do you think you’re more likely to regret in twenty years? Choosing to move to the Bay Area or choosing to stay here?” The answer was clear.
One of my favorite professors, Artie Isaac, said that every person wants three things: the job, the city, and the significant other. Everyone can easily get one of the three, getting two out of three is difficult, and managing to pull off all three is undeniably lucky. After hearing this, my uncle said, “Pick the perfect city; the job and the girl will be waiting for you there.” My decision was made. I put in my two weeks notice, threw a going away party (okay, two), and said goodbye to a lot of people I love.
In On the Road, Jack Kerouac nails it: “I was surprised, as always, at how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.” Jack was right. Getting worked up over the prospect of moving and all that goes with it is easier, but after committing, liberation and possibility take over.
* Whether Horace Greely was the first to use the phrase “Go West, young man” is disputed, as are the details of the rest of the quote. For further background, read more on Wikipedia.