“Great cities attract ambitious people.”. Ambitious, individualistic people often run away from home.
If they find the right city, people who run away feel like they’ve arrived. They are seen. And if they ever return home, they are changed. Hero’s journey type stuff.
Western culture has no shortage of stories of heroes and heroines who took ‘the midnight train goin’ anywhere’.
In some cases, you are left wondering ‘what if’. Maybe of all the universes out there, this is the worst one?
Anyway, I believe there’s two ingredients needed for this recipe that taste a little salty when mixed together. Ambition and individualism.
Moving away, or running away, is one of the most ambitious things one can do. Take investment banking. A city like Melbourne, Australia does not revere bankers like Manhattan does. And say what you want about them, they are working really hard. It’s an extremely demanding job. If you don’t have much ambition, that sort of lifestyle will be hell for you. And vice versa.
Moving away, or running way, is also very individualistic. For millennia, we have stuck together. We are social. We are happier together. But I also think there is clearly an individual urge within some of us. Think of it like two archetypes. One sits happily around the campfire, with his family nearby and the other is restless and wants to experience unknowns. “Where are you going?” “Uh, I just want to wander around over there, you know, for fun?” Humans weren’t designed to just ‘feel nice’ and an urge to explore has led to a lot of important discoveries and action.
Both of these qualities obviously have good and bad elements.
Modern life has never been so individualistic, and even for an introvert like me, it’s not healthy. “A person living in a modern city or a suburb can , for the first time in history , go through an entire day — or an entire life — mostly encountering complete strangers.” *
Both are ‘baked in’. Although it feels natural for me to ‘voluntarily leave a group’, and I have enough ambition to try out new things, I believe that finding the right place to live is about balancing the amount of ambition you have with the sort of life you want to live.