By: Glendon Zernicke
I can’t say that I’ve always been in love with Maine. Growing up, I lived in a small community in Aroostook County that changed dramatically economically and socially as I got older. I watched what used to be booming businesses become nothing but shells of themselves. I experienced my hometown go from being a community of opportunity to one of defeat and drug-ridden crime. In high school I made the decision that I was going to do whatever I could to get out of Maine. I applied to the University of Southern Maine to begin my process of getting my education and leaving for good, but something halted that plan along the way. I started to begin to see what Maine truly had to offer, not only for me, but for everyone else who lives here.
Maine is especially unique compared to the rest of the United States. While most major cities in America have a million or more inhabitants, Maine has a total of 1.3 million people in its 35,000 square miles of space, with half the population occupying the southern area of the state. You can experience city life in places like Portland but can escape one of Maine’s many unorganized territories if you don’t want to experience anything besides nature. Mainers often argue the regions of the state they live in are the “true Maine”, but I feel all the varieties of communities here are part of what make Maine so special. You have everything from the hustle-and-bustle of Portland, to the highlands in Northwestern Maine, all the way up the rocky coast and to the potato fields of Aroostook County – these communities give Maine the breadth and depth that make it distinguishable from all its fellow New England counterparts.
As I began to explore these communities more, I began to fall in love with their quirks and how they all balance each other out. I can enjoy the city life I desire to build a career in Portland but can also drive one hour outside the city to enjoy leisurely activities like hiking through mountains or going to the beaches. I’ve been able to find the appropriate balance of what I need to be content in the city with what I need to feel content personally.
Maine has been facing a serious workforce problem over the past few years. Our population is the oldest in the country, and we need to find new ways to attract new people to Maine to pick up where the older generation left off. Young people have been leaving because they can’t find jobs or fear lack of opportunity. We must find ways as a state to change this mindset and these fears. We must be open to new ideas of business and industry, and not be afraid to fail if they don’t work. There is opportunity to turn this state around for the good, but it’s going to take time and energy to solve these problems. We mustn’t give up though.
I believe in the state that raised me. I may have seen some of the good, the bad and the ugly, but for me, the good far outweighs the bad. I haven’t given up hope in Maine and hope to stay here and contribute to the development of my home state for as long as I can.