I feel like a newb here in Tacoma, though I've lived here for about two and a half years. Despite still feeling like I'm getting my footing in my new city, I find myself fiercely defending it and the people who make it great. I felt the same way about Spokane when I lived there. So many college folks transplanted from the Seattle area would complain about how lame Spokane was. I still love Spokane and love hearing about the great things that people are doing to invest in the community and make Spokane a better place. When people have a negative attitude about the place they live it never does anything except create a feedback loop of disappointment and dismissal. Disappointment that the town isn't better, and then dismissal at any assertion that you should invest in the town because you don't want to invest in a "lame" place. It's like cultural brain drain. People with the means to make a real change want to leave and go to somewhere better and cooler, rather than investing in the community where they already live. I saw it happen in Anchorage, with kids graduating from high school and wanting to "get outside" (aka: go to the lower 48).
Not that it's always bad to leave a place. It can be necessary to get out to gain a new perspective, and sometimes you really do need to leave to live the life you want to live. But it's disappointing to me when people leave a place because of a cultural anorexia without ever doing anything to feed that local culture. Tacoma, Spokane, Anchorage... they won't ever be New York City or even Seattle or Portland. They have their own history and culture to offer. Comparison is the thief of joy, they say, and while this is good advice for individual people, it's also sound advice for our local communities. Tacoma isn't Seattle and we shouldn't try to be more like Seattle, we should try to be a better Tacoma. The best Tacoma. Instead of pining to be more like Portland, which is a great city in and of itself, we should shift our gaze to our own communities to see how we can invest here and now. It can be hard and overwhelming, which it why I imagine so few people feel up for the task. I myself feel ill equipped having lived here for only a couple years. I feel like I lack the history and knowledge of this place that more long-term residents have. But I realized that someday, assuming we stick around, I will be a long term resident and I'd better start investing in this place now if I want it to be better by the time I've lived here for a while.