You Come and Go, Michigan Stays With You
I am a child of Michigan. I’ve lived here most of my life. I’ve lived all over the state. I’ve gone to Lake Michigan as much as I possibly could in summers, huddled near radiators during winters. Michigan air has a certain quality as the seasons change, deep and alive, humid and full. Michigan is a maritime state that produces musicians like Sufjan Stevens and writers like Jeffrey Eugenides.
The people of Michigan have watched history ripple through our state, bringing 20th century prosperity. The state asked ingenuity of those who remained.
I once spoke to someone from Arizona who confessed to looking down on Michigan before she came across a good reason to move here (a job). Why would anybody go there, there’s nothing there, she had wondered.
We are used to being told we have no culture, that we speak like all Midwesterners — bland, friendly, empty of deeper meaning. We are told that our accent, if we have one, is neutral. As a result of hearing this, we are humble. I try to take the best of this perception and turn it into a kind of openness that allows new people to enter our state and enter our “way of life” immediately.
Just as Michigan needs new voices and perspectives to come here and demonstrate their ingenuity, Michigan needs its stakeholders to experience further shores, at least those of us who have such pangs.
Our way of life is affordable and if you want adventure, you can find it here. I’ve always subscribed to the philosophy that “we make our own fun” — and I mean “we” in the most all-inclusive sense of the word. Michigan has seen more prosperous days, but its soul still beats strong. It invites participation everywhere.
I’m a child of Michigan, but I hope to get out for a few years and see other parts the world. Just as Michigan needs new voices and perspectives to come here and demonstrate their ingenuity (they will be rewarded with open arms), Michigan needs its stakeholders to experience further shores, at least those of us who have such pangs. Because as citizens who are part of a global economy, I think it’s important for some of us to see how it works in other places. Exposure to other environments should not be confused with brain drain. Michigan needs people who care about it but who also have perspective about how things are done in other cultures outside of Michigan, no matter how close or far.
In my opinion, convincing native young minds to stay might not always work. But travelers from distant places should know that Michigan offers opportunity. I can’t put my finger on it, but I’ve sensed it more and more over the past few years. There’s a burgeoning energy here. The cost of living isn’t bad, and we have at least one of everything! If it’s intelligence you crave, Ann Arbor was named the 4th smartest city in the U.S. in 2008 by Forbes.com (this and more Ann Arbor rankings can be found at VisitAnnArbor). If it’s natural beauty you want, we have 3,052 miles of Great Lakes shoreline. When you’re in Michigan, it’s hard to get more than a few hours away from any one of the lakes.
Furthermore, Michigan stays with you as you go. Everyone I speak to who leaves misses it. Michigan invites your return. Even if I leave after I graduate, Michigan will stay with me.
Anna K. Jonsson is completing her MSI in Human-Computer Interaction and earned a dual BA in Film and Video Studies and Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. In her spare time, she blogs, though not exclusively about her love for Michigan. Her blog can be viewed at annakjonsson.com.
- My Fulfilling Life in Michigan (November 30, 2009)
- Editors and Image Makers: On Photographing Detroit, part 1 (November 12, 2009)
- The New Age of Education: We Need It (January 25, 2010)
- The Mitten: One Size Fits Most? (December 14, 2009)
- What Gen-Y (Really) Wants (December 3, 2009)