The dichotomy occurring right now between the revitalization in Columbus and the most miserable residents in America is real. I just read why we are one of the ‘Top 10 Most Miserable Cities in America’ along with various articles of how Columbus is the worst city to live in, ever, in the history of time. Then I scrolled though some negative posts on Facebook about our city, and even laughed at the ‘Judgmental Map of Columbus’, before I started becoming depressed myself.
This all made me wonder why these people still live here if it’s so bad? Are these naysayers doing anything to make this city better?
Obviously, it is beyond frustrating to personally spend arduous time improving your community’s culture only for people to combat your efforts with negative energy. I’m often times reminded why many people stopped trying and become cynical, or move attempting to find happiness in a bigger, “cooler” city.
But this struggle is normal and happens everywhere. I’ve lived a lot of places and fairly well-traveled so people frequently ask me in astonishment, and a little bit of judgement, why I moved back here. I’ve seen these same people move away, usually coming back in a year or two with a completely different perspective, and if they don’t move back they admit to missing Columbus in some form.
It’s harder in a bigger city to find community, and most efforts are met with increased competitiveness. Maybe we are used to things being fast and easy. Maybe we feel entitled to happiness and culture, but it takes work from the whole community to make our city better.
When I first moved back from Los Angeles, California I always said, “I’m moving back to California”. I didn’t feel at home here yet and felt pressured to excuse why I moved back to Columbus, GA (I did move back to California and Savannah, GA briefly but I missed home). I’ve been told more times I don’t fit in here than I do fit in, even considered it a compliment at one point but now I challenge it.
How many times have you had these conversations with people who moved here? This is part of what perpetuates Columbus’s misery, please stop, we need people who don’t “fit in” here, we want diversity and fresh outlooks from all over the world.
Columbus ranked 74 out of 100 cities last year and 75 out of 100 this year for best places to live in America (according to Livability.com), in 2007 Best Life magazine ranked Columbus fourth on the ‘Top 100 Places To Raise A Family’, and Columbus’ cost of living is 17.10% lower than the U.S. average. Columbus is a great place to live and there has been a lot of people hard at work to make Columbus what it is today.
There are also people rising who desire to continue cultivating culture in Columbus, who don’t “fit in,” haven’t lived here their whole life, are willing to work and unafraid to fail attempting something new. Plenty of “miserable” residents have been compelled to create something that doesn’t exist or lacks here and have become enthralled with our community in the process.
Gary Pound, a Columbus native and artist, wrote an amazing article called ‘City of Fools’ in which he wrote, “But the greater fool is also someone with just the right combination of self-delusion and self-confidence. Against all odds, he has the courage of his own convictions. Not content with the status quo, this fool has the audacity to think he can succeed where others see only failure. He sees worth where others see only obstructions. I would contend that this whole country, and certainly our community, has been made by greater fools.”
The truth is you are either part of the revitalization or you are part of the misery.
Even some of us trying to make Columbus a better place can become caught up in the old mentality of bashing Columbus, but it doesn’t help anybody. I love taking skeptical residents to places in Columbus they’ve never seen and infusing so much positive energy into their cynicism that they can’t help but become excited too. What we feed will grow. We’ve experienced so much development in Columbus the last couple of years and we need to feed this vigorous momentum by working together and creating more synergy.
Lately, one of my favorite activities is hosting people at my loft in Uptown Columbus whom may or may not live here. I give them a tour of downtown in my golf cart, showing them all the new developments, the new restaurants, the market on Saturday mornings, the concert series, the white-water rafting, the Riverwalk, etc.
IT NEVER FAILS every one of my guests say at some point, “I don’t feel like I’m in Columbus anymore.”
I find myself saying the same statement, not sure if it’s a backhanded compliment but either way it’s a compliment, and it’s true. Columbus is not the miserable city you may have imagined, or maybe experienced at one time, it’s evolving and experiencing a true renaissance of revitalization.
How to be part of the movement:
Step one: Be involved and engage with YOUR community. Volunteer with social clubs or non-profits, support local businesses, and find ways you can personally contribute to our culture. Everyone has something specifically to give our community and you will meet new, interesting people plus improve our city!
Step two: Be positive. It’s too easy attacking on social media, it’s usually uninformed and doesn’t accomplish anything but if you have a complaint make a suggestion of what can be done or ask for suggestions on how to improve it. Negative people become irrelevant so instead of trolling write a positive review for a local business or a thank you note (even if it’s on a Facebook page)!
Step Three: Be inclusive. We need community and in a society binge watching ‘Breaking Bad’ alone we are isolated. People feel disconnected from their community and the development so they are more likely to rant about Columbus being terrible, even though they never leave their house. Invite people to new events and/or share with your friends interesting developments. A lot of people simply don’t know all of the options they have in Columbus.
Written by Jacy Jenkins
Her Magazine, edited by Shelley Dean, published this article in their August 2014 issue. Also published on www.alloverthevalley.com
I lived in Columbus for 3 years… sadly had to move away for family reasons…I miss it very much.. I always said Columbus is the best little city It has a lot going for it.. Yes there are still some of the “old South ” stereotypes but you have a great mayor who has a lot of vision for the city. There are loads of things to do and an affordable economy.
Columbus is at a tipping point, Jacy, and folks like you are creating the momentum that is propelling us forward. There is an ancient Arab proverb, “The dogs may bark but the caravan moves on.” The molecules of this city are being rearranged right now and it doesn’t matter whether the change agents are appreciated or not. There is a feeling of “now” in our city and it is essential that we seize this moment. Don’t worry. The dawn is just beyond the horizon.