People love Denver. They tell me this every time they learn that I am from Denver, and then they share some story detailing just how much they love Denver. And I get it; they’re right. There’s just something about Denver.
Denver has a fantastic quality of life – better than most cities, from what I hear. And from what I have seen, I guess I can agree that, to some extent, this is true. A lot of people dream about living in Denver. And even people who have never been to Denver agree that they would like to move there.
And though all opinions may differ, in my esteem, that “something” about Denver goes a little like this:
Yes, the “quality of life” thing. Denver is a great place. It has a lot of “special” to it and if Denver were an article of clothing, it would be a fine pair of fleece pajama pants – the “best quality comfy” one can find. (Maybe it feels this way to me more than others, in part because I am from there. A hometown always feels like pajama pants, does it not?) Maybe, to other people, it’s a Patagonia jacket, and I guess it could be that too. (Pajama pants on bottom; Patagonia on top?…)
But with an emphasis on “quality of life” comes a relaxed focus on other things… like hot-hot-heated pursuits of a career… The issue with pajama pants is that they are pajama pants. They will never be dress slacks. And so, with a great quality of life (and a community of folks interested in preserving it), it goes without saying that, as a whole, the city is just ever-so-slightly less “hungry” than other, bigger places.
So, yes, Denver is wonderful. It really is. It is a beautiful place to raise kids and to enjoy the great outdoors. It’s not a bad place to get into a little real estate or a little finance or start a little company. But if you want big or you want the fast lane for a few years, you won’t find it here… because you may need to hold that meeting on Friday morning, but half your team high-tailed it up to the mountains for fresh pow. (I am exaggerating; plenty of folks work “full” days… that, of course, still meaning “9-to-5.”)
A FEW THINGS YOU DONT KNOW ABOUT DENVER… (i.e., things I’m often asked)
1. We don’t all ski. Skiing is an expensive sport, and it also requires a certain enjoyment (or, in the very least, tolerance) of snow and cold. My parents had no interest in skiing for one or both of these reasons (we were never quite sure, growing up, which it was) and, as such, I did not start skiing until college. This is the case for many, many people native to Colorado. And as much fun as it may be to daydream that we all learn our colors and shapes by learning to navigate slope terrain and runs, the fact is that assuming all Coloradoans grow up skiing is a bit like assuming all New Yorkers shop at Saks. (You know that that’s not the case…)
2. We aren’t all liberal. In fact, there is a huge, shall we say, “Texas” influence, and much of “Denver” lives in the ‘burbs, where they enjoy their space and their big vehicles, go to church (or not), and complain about taxes. You have to remember that Denver is not Boulder, but is rather nestled between it and Colorado Springs (decidedly and very conservative) and, as such, reflects a nice balance of the two. (My own parents and grand-parents, for example, are all Republican.)
3. We don’t all smoke weed. I know. Shocking, right? Because we just made it legal and all, you would assume that we all do it regularly. (Like, we are all probably smoking right now.) But we don’t. (And we’re not.) Shockingly enough, it is still a lot like anything, and in the same way that not everyone drinks coffee or smokes cigarettes (despite both being legal), it really comes down to enjoying it. And not everyone does. (This does not, however, stop any of us from hanging out with anyone else. A non-smoker can hang out with a smoker just like… a non-smoker can hang out with a smoker.)
4. Leaving doesn’t mean we don’t love it. I love Denver. It’s my home. I fully intend to move back someday. I just needed to go experience other things. I needed to fly the coop. And frankly, the job market and job opportunities are quite a bit more robust in other places. So leaving doesn’t really mean anything about my love of Denver.
My own cousin left Denver for work as well, and he’s about as “Colorado” as it gets. (I am pretty sure that he could survive for a year in the wild with nothing more than a shard of glass… except he wouldn’t have to, because he would find his way back to civilization within like 36 hours.) Homeboy really did grow up on skis. He’s an Eagle Scout. When he gets married, he wants to register at REI. He has climbed like every fourteneer in the state. Like, twice. And now he lives in LA. Because that’s where the companies in his field were hiring.
So, leaving a city, unlike a spouse, really says very little about love. Both my cousin and I? We will undoubtedly be back… once we’re ready to slow down and smell the pine trees again.