I'm Lauren League, an artist, writer, and designer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Sep 18, 2023

They keep trying to get me to move to California

Here in Michigan the trees are starting to rust, the heat of summer is finally cooling, and the air has that special crispness to it that makes you feel like anything is possible. I went for a walk in the woods and maveled at the beauty of the emerald canopy and the perfectness of the day, thinking about how almost everyone Ive worked with has tried to get me to leave Michigan.


To people who live in California, there is only California.

California, with its 7% income tax (9% in San Francisco).

California, where rent is $3,000+ for a one bedroom apatment.

California, where everyone is obsessed with work and all the talk is about work and money and wanting a break. How dating in the city sucks and its like applying to a job; memorizing the script about where you work, where you work, where you work.

With the experiences Ive had with California, San Francisco in particular, Ive come to associate it with novocaine. Lets numb you up so you dont feel the pain as this tech company pulls every year of your life out of your mouth. Let’s get you to obsess about work, and think about work, and make work the end-all, be-all state of human experience. Who has the best job? Who has the best title? Who works for the best company?

If you are a more gentle, artsy person and don’t take all that work stuff too seriously, being in San Francisco can feel downright dangerous. Everyone is trying to either compete with you or prove to you, a stranger, that they’re worthy (of what? I don’t know.) I know this behavior is a psychic fossil left behind by strict or abusive parents, a permanant thirst for acceptance in a densely-populated desert devoid of human soul, but it still feels weird when it happens.

It might just be my experience, but it feels like Michigan is much more chill. People aren’t cut-throat. They don’t talk about work 99% of the time, and you don’t have to listen to grown-ass adults complain about the quality of the free gourmet chocolate in the tech company’s kitchen. No, here, something catastrophic will happen and folks are like, “Ope, looks like we gotta fix that, eh?” There’s an NBD attitude about everything.

In Michigan, state income tax is 4.5%. Rent here on the outskirts of Ann Arbor, one of Michigan’s most desirable cities, is $2,000 per month for a three bedroom condo. Everything at the grocery store is a lot cheaper, gas is cheaper, restaurants are cheaper, everything is cheaper than California.

And yet, everyone I’ve talked to who grew up in Michigan and left for an employer in San Francisco says they don’t regret it. That it’s the best thing that ever happened to them. So, maybe I’m missing something here.

Then again, I am writing this article during the nicest month of Michigan, where it’s easy to forget that winter is just around the corner.


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Art & Storytelling
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