Monday, July 22, 2013

It's adventurin' time!


I am SO excited! This whole blog has been dedicated to my misery for the past year and that's about to change.

We are leaving MA in the next couple weeks and heading out to Arkansas.

To some (aka everyone in my family), this appears to be a hairbrained scheme designed for failure and ultimate unhappiness. Many believe that Massachusetts is as perfect a place you could ever find, with good schools, better-than-average salaries, and communities that actively seek cohesive perfection.

Some of that is true; drive through most towns around here and you will see beautiful, perfectly manicured lawns with stone fences and red geraniums or rhododendrons planted out front. Salaries are a bit higher depending on your field. Education is extremely important in the state and that means for more invested parents and towns.

I like Massachusetts, I do. Maybe we'll come back here someday, but for now my reasons to move far outweigh my reasons to stay.

Job Myth: Because education is so valued here, it would be a step up to work in MA.

Situation: I did not like my job here. I do not enjoy working with students who feel entitled or act like punks. Many students in MA told me that they would have no problem getting certain teachers fired. And they did it. It's an ugly, unappreciated position to be a teacher in that kind of setting. I also struggled to find work, even though I'm highly qualified and experienced. I knew an administrator who taught college classes, and you know what he tells students in the first class? "You want to be a teacher? Move." That's how tough and competitive it is here. I have more opportunities to teach, teach what I like, and move up into administration or the college level in AR. In fact, I'm going from teaching English at a middle school with a tough population and pre-determined lessons to teaching Pre-AP and AP English in AR with more freedom. Yes!

Winner: AR

Money Myth:  I earn more, and thus will have more money, in MA as opposed to Arkansas.

Situation: Yes, my salary is $12,000 more here than it will be in AR. HOWEVER, more money does not equal more happiness. It just means more paper. What actually matters is what you can get for that dollar; in other words, spending power is more important. Last year I made a decent salary. We covered bills and additional costs. Because the job market is so competitive, we each commuted about an hour each day, which took roughly $150 of our cash per week in gas alone. On top of that, food is more expensive, entertainment is more expensive. Massachusetts is called Taxachusetts for a reason, and that certainly makes a dent. We couldn't afford to live on our own here (the cheapest apartment I could find was $940 per month before utilities.) Looking down the line, yes, the money increases each year for a teacher but I have limited opportunities to move up. On top of that, because Massachusetts is so uppity they will not accept my M. Ed. from an Oklahoma university as sufficient and I would need to invest another $40k or so for a teacher prep program in order to keep my license. We would have to do that within the next 5 years or I would lose my livelihood.


Housing Myth:  Just like my cousins and others before me, it is typical to live with my parents, then move into an apartment, and then I'll be able to move into a house in my 30's in order to settle down and start making a family.

Situation:  I have a lot of loans, and because the housing market is ridiculous in MA, this is not a viable option for us. In fact, ever since the housing bubble burst, this has not been a successful strategy for a lot of people our age. A lot of us live at home. In fact, my parents are housing not only my husband and me but also my two younger brothers who are financially unable to step out on their own either.

U.S. Census Stats:

MA: Median value of homes: $343, 500
MA: Median household income: $65, 981

A house costs 5x the amount of money earned by the average couple.

AR: Median value of homes: $105, 100
AR: Median household income: $40, 149

A house costs 2.5x the amount of money earned by the average couple.


Quality of Life Myth:  People in Massachusetts take better care of what they own, are meticulous about their community planning, and have enough discretionary income to enjoy themselves. It's a better life.

Situation: I have to strongly disagree with this one. People from MA are descendants of Puritan ancestors and it certainly shows. Puritans believed in hard work but did not think highly of wealth. That translates now into people working extremely hard, constantly running, running, running, and not feeling free to really enjoy their incomes without guilt, even if they have the ability to do so. Conservative choices are always praised and respected. Colors here are muted; dark navy, red, black, grey, hunter green are popular colors. You are more likely to see a woman without makeup and in sweatpants than you are to see a woman who took time to put herself together well. You are ostracized for being feminine or trying to draw positive attention to yourself in a lot of ways. On the weekends, people here go to their second or third jobs (in my brother's case, his fourth) or work on the yard / house. In AR, we will be able to do what we want without so much judgement, and that will include a lot of canoeing, kayaking, hiking, fishing, grilling, and visiting with friends / family.


PLUS, IT'S TIME TO ADVENTURE! I can feel it in my bones.

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