Monday, October 29, 2018

I think there's another reason as to why Portland and Vancouver are the most depressed cities in America.

Citation: This article HERE.

When I visited Portland, Oregon a couple of years ago, there was a sign I saw that said, "Keep Portland Weird." I imagine that the sign is an acknowledgement that the liberal utopia and its surrounding area have a population of those who want to feel connected to others, whether or not that connection is actually affordable. It also (and repeatedly so) is rated highly as the most depressed city in America (Portland and Vancouver) because these sister cities deal so much with this particular mental illness.

So, I started to ask, "Why is this?" Science and statistical studies point to its dreary overcast weather as being the source of depression. And I think nearly everyone gloms onto this fact and then, because an answer that is reasonable has been presented and seems to be the case, no further questioning is partaken. In other words the answer is: gloomy weather makes for gloomy people. There you have it, done and done. But I think that it may be more complicated than that, and I'm basing my hypothesis on people who I've known all my life.

I come from a small town, and I moved to a larger one some ten or so years ago. In that time, practically all of the depressed people I knew...people with little or no job prospects that used weed and drugs to hide from reality as long as possible...all moved to the Portland area with ideas that moving to this place would somehow make everything right in the world. Of course, this didn't happen. They were depressed in super conservative Idaho Falls, Idaho, and they are still depressed in super liberal blue city of Portland/Vancouver. Why they thought a change of scenery, being surrounded by trees and forests, and having moss growing on everything with the smell of rain and rotting wood, would make any difference in their lives is beyond me. Sure, many of them moved there so that it would be easier to access drugs so that they could continue to deny that their lives have turned to absolute crap, because they'd rather be socially connected than work a back-breaking job for low wages. I understand that totally.

After all, what is the American Dream? No matter how you define it, I think the dream has at its core the idea of having friends who aren't financially stressed sharing good times and noodle salad with each other and just relaxing...all the time...relaxing in nice houses, with nice furniture, good food, kids who are well cared for maybe running around here and there...and all of it is somehow paid for magically like the situation comedies that sell this kind of thing. In this dream, you don't have to have actual skills to have a good paying job. You don't have to be able to do advanced math or anything that makes your brain hurt and takes everything that your brain has to give, leaving you exhausted at the end of a shift. You just have to have average (meaning everyone can do this if they apply themselves) intelligence and be able to do what everyone else can do, like cook while following a recipe in a book (ooh so special), paint, drive, or have opinions on decorating. Instead, what naturally would fill your day if you had all the time in the world is "your skill." For example, "if I had all the time in the world, I would do pottery." Or, "If I had all the time in the world, I would write poetry because that's a skill and it makes me happy." And that's the driving motivation: to be happy. That's all that matters. Only none of these things pay anything because everyone (yes there is some hyperbole here) can do them.

There is no slave driver making you work a back-breaking job where you spend the majority of your life in a warehouse or in a call center (where you are forced to take 200 calls a day). No, in this dream, there is work-life balance which provides enough free time for jogs along a clean river front (because everyone is into recycling), where you are all home at 3 in the afternoon (when you went to work at 9), and where a day's work is writing something profound on a blog or in a reputable magazine while networking with people who look fresh because their jobs shovel money at them for all their bright ideas. That's the American Dream. Oh and everyone in this dream eats organically sourced, local food coupled with only the best coffee, and works a thirty hour week to squeeze in concerts and visits to food trucks where life is as vibrant as the fall colors on the leaves. The thing is, all this stuff costs a lot of money, and most of the jobs in the U.S. do not provide that kind of income to afford this lifestyle. It doesn't exist, and it never has. Additionally, most people are not smart enough, nor do they have the means to be entrepreneurial with enough success, to purchase this lifestyle.

This twisted version of the "American Dream" is even so pervasive that its given rise to poverty snobbery. I have people who come into my home (who couldn't afford to rub two nickels together) who, when offered some Folgers coffee from my coffee maker, turn their nose up and say, "I'll have a cup and thank you, but I need to teach you what real coffee is." Like...what the hell?

I've told these people, "I know what 'real coffee' is and I like this stuff. If you want 'real coffee' then you're welcome to it in your own home. But don't go and pretend that you know any better than me, because you don't. It's an opinion, it's flexible, and just because my opinion of what's good and what isn't differs from yours does not mean that I'm somehow in need of an education from you." Each person I've said this to has never returned to my house and has pretty much unfriended me on Facebook. I don't mind at all, but I'm not going to be lectured to by people who (in particular) have no business giving others solicited advice on how to live.

So here's my point to all of this (bringing it back around). There's something about the Portland/Vancouver area and the Pacific West in general which sells this "weird" idea of the twisted (and many are in denial on how unaffordable it actually is) American Dream to depressed people who are unhappy with their lives (many who are in states like Idaho and Utah and Montana, etc.) And depressed people are buying it in droves. They think that, "all I have to do is pull up my roots in this crappy small town where I live and move to a place where there are towering pine trees, moss on everything, and it rains all the time, and life is going to be so much better." They think, "Hey, if I live in a place that is known for its natural beauty, then my life is totally going in the opposite direction...always up." The decision is probably fueled by an active cognitive dissonance...the idea that, "Hey, the reason I'm living in poverty in this deeply red state is because of the politics. If only I moved to a blue state, all that would change." Only it doesn't change, and the reason that they are living in poverty has nothing to do with the politics at all, and the people who are in denial of their problems find that they just get amplified when they move to a place where the cost of living is sky high. And please don't get me started on how many people who live in poverty, DO NOT REALIZE that they are poor. They think they are middle class, which is absolutely not true. Again...denial of reality, which is a completely different topic than this one.

I guess what I'm saying is that Portland and Vancouver are frequently listed as the most depressed cities in America, and the reason that is cited (the most) is due to the gloomy weather. I offer a counterpoint: that they are the most depressed cities in America because they are physical manifestations of actual Hope for people suffering from depression, and these people gather there by the thousands. However, this "Hope" is a huge lie. In a way, its like the promise of bad fruit. It looks great while its hanging on the tree, luscious, and juicy, but once you bite into it you discover how bland and mealy it actually is. But by that point, you've made the move and probably spent all your resources to get there (that you had), and are now stuck in an area that has you priced out and where "your skills" are not valued.

Of course, all of what I've written above is just opinion. I have no scientific studies, and I am not a social scientist. However, I'm not blind to what's going on, and I've known an unusually high number of people who moved to the Portland / Vancouver area because it was their life's dream. They all have one thing in common: they were clinically depressed before they made the move. And that makes me ask, why is living in the Portland area so appealing to depressed people?


  1. I had no idea Portland was tops for depression. I've been there a couple of times and really like the place, but then I love rain and lots of trees and green, and the city is well planned and has some great fun neighborhoods. BUT... like you point out, people could be moving there for the wrong reason. I have a relative who's moved all over the country looking for the end of the rainbow, and where ever she is she's depressed because the problem is within her, not the places.

    As for Portland's weather affecting people -- like you say, that's ridiculous. Denmark is one of the happiest places on earth, and most of the year it's not exactly a warm, sunny country. BUT the Danes are not as materialistic as Americans, they emphasize the social fabric, and there's a safety net so people feel protected.

    P.S. Any guest in your home who slams your coffee is rude and has bad manners, but I'm old-fashioned that way.

  2. I'd say Detroit is a lot more depressing but those people are probably not being honest about it.

  3. I'm actually thinking of retiring to the Portland/Vancouver. We have friends in Portland and have loved it when we have visited them. I haven't seen enough of Vancouver to know how it is, but the tax situation is better there for federal retirees than Portland, so I'd like to check it out. We lived in Iceland for a couple of years and loved it, so that type of weather is fine for my wife and me.

    1. My point isn't that the weather or the area is making people depressed. It's that something about the Portland area (and the Pacific northwest in general) seems to attract depressed people like a magnet from all over the world.

  4. Interesting. I hadn't considered that. When my uncle moved to Oregon (Eugene) in the '80s, it was for tax reasons. It's beautiful up there. But I don't think it'd be my dream.

  5. The dream that things will be better, we'll be happier, if... is a long standing dream held by too many people. I didn't know Portland and Vancouver are the epicenters. The places that seem stable are people who believe in a work ethic, seek to fulfill talents, mix with people of all beliefs, have a strong faith, and see ways to have adventures.

    Finding happiness and stability is not external.

    We lived in Ireland for a few years. Rainy and cloudy. Green that can blind one. The depressed people were pretty much those who did not possess things listed about. Emigration has emptied many of Ireland's talented people. At that time period, Ireland was considered one of the countries that had real alcohol problems. I don't know if that has changed. Probably not.

  6. BTW you reminded me of those Progressive insurance ads where someone buys a house and starts turning into their parents. You bought a house and now you're turning into this grumpy old guy who yells at kids to get off his lawn. 😁