What's occupying my thoughts now -- other than finishing the going-away to-do list, shlepping across the Pacific with 13- and 20-hour layovers and dealing with three more online college classes that start today -- is how I'll adjust to life back in Nebraska. I imagine it hasn't changed that much since I left in 2006. That Callahan fella still runs the football team, right?
How will I occupy my time once I am not gainfully employed for the first time in about 10 years? The college classes take precedence, sure, and I imagine my evenings will be occupied with part-time newspaper work (fall sports season is at hand) and my continuing attempts to teach myself Japanese. My family would probably like me to make more than cameo appearances at gatherings, and I would like to catch up with my small handful of friends in Omaha. Moreover, there's the not-so-small matter of figuring out what direction to take my life post-newspapers.
Here's another question: Should I try having a social life? No doubt that sounds odd to most people, but my journalist readers know to what I'm referring. Working nights and weekends for not a lot of money, changing jobs and cities every other year on average and living in places where the local lingo is not English -- all things I have done in one combination or another -- is not a good formula for a love life. In truth, dating was never that important to me, even during high school. There were always Other Things to Do that seemed more worth my while.
What brings on this wave of contemplation? While I was logging out of my e-mail, I saw a link to this article purporting to detail the best and worst states for singles. Part of what caught my eye was that Nebraska (never the most high-profile of states) came up twice early in the article.
1. The Midwest is more like a desert for single women… With the highest share of currently married men, the five states where single women will struggle the most to find a date are: Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Utah and Nebraska. “These are states where people tend to grow up, stay around and settle down,” says Cohn. On one hand, it’s refreshing to see “sticky states” that maintain their hometown boys and girls. But on the other hand, without the influx of new singles into the mix, dating opportunities for women living in these states are pretty limited.
4. Red may be the color of roses and romance, but red states are not so lucky for singles. The Pew report also reveals that conservative states in the Midwest and Northwest (Utah, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas) are less welcoming for singles on the move. First, these states have higher proportions of men and women who get hitched young and stay the course. “By age 24, half of the women in Utah and Idaho are already married,” says Cohn. These places may offer beautiful scenery and clean living, but unfortunately they aren’t singles magnets if having dating options — and the time to explore them — matters to you.The Pew report to which our man Dave refers examines marriage and divorce in the United States. The other reason it caught my eye is that the report was released in October 2009, but the article doesn't have a publication date and could easily be new. Why would Yahoo dredge up an article from three years ago to put on its front page?
Even allowing for the fact that the data is from 2008, it looks at first glance as though it should be good news. I will be a young(ish), single male living in a state where 56 percent of the men are married, 4 percent higher than the national mark. Then again, if Nebraska is one of these states that don't have many people moving in and the women who are there tend to get married in their mid-20s, maybe the numbers aren't in my favor after all.
As it turns out, Nebraska is not a very "sticky state." Another Pew study from earlier that year gauges whether states are "sticky" (which retain a higher percentage of adults born there), a "magnet" (which have a higher percentage of adults living there who were born in another state), both or neither. My home state ranks 35th in magnetism (33.2 percent) and 41st in stickiness (50.2 percent).
The latter interests me as I remember Nebraska's "brain drain" being a big talking point during my school years and all manner of initiatives being bandied about to keep the state's best and brightest at home. There were a couple specific attempts by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to sell the Big State U. experience to my high school's "gifted" students -- a sales pitch that apparently fell flat as most, if not all, of the group I went with ended up going to college out of state.
Odds and percentages aside, there is also the not-insignificant matter of finding a woman to whom I am attracted and who finds me likewise. I do just fine on the former and failtastically at the latter -- being fat, hairy, homely and antisocial has its pluses and minuses. Live in hope, though, right? If I'm really going to re-examine and rearrange my existence into something more suitable for life outside newspapers, I might as well go whole hog.
That said, I'd be lying if I said there was no allure to being the Odd One Out. I have several cousins who have married and reproduced, my younger sister has been engaged and my younger brother is getting married in less than two weeks (hope the new couple likes artwork). This family needs a weird, wandering uncle through whom they can live vicariously and, by jiminy, I'm just the guy to do it!