Tag Archives: Michigan

People, Places, Things

27 Oct

PerfectI’ve been thinking about the environment I want to live in this week; moving to Spokane has made me aware of how important my living environment is, beyond my immediate home.

During my last trip home to rural Michigan I saw deer, coyotes, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, possums, porcupines, turtles, turkeys, and hawks.  There are a dozen lakes and two rivers within ten miles of where I grew up.  My community was small but close-knit.  Even now, years after moving away, I’m still welcomed with genuine affection every time I come back to visit.

When I lived in Tahoe I commuted 40 minutes each way in the winter; it didn’t matter how overworked, tired, or stressed I felt, I always enjoyed that drive.  Who wouldn’t?  I drove past Lake Tahoe, through picturesque mountain towns, and up to the breath-taking Donner Summit to go ski.  All of those gorgeous things were just part of my trip to work, part of my environment.  The people I met were usually interesting; everyone was pursuing some ambition.  My passion for skiing meant I fit in.

My brief stint in Reno was pleasant.  I could see Mt. Rose in the distance (but not too distant) and the Truckee River ran right through downtown.  At night the strip was a blur of neon and tourists.  Between the casinos and the high unemployment, there were a lot of desperate people, but I still felt safe walking alone.  I felt like I could be every part of myself there, without having to explain anything to anyone.

I haven’t found much to appreciate in Spokane.  The fall colors are nice, but that’s temporary.  The people I meet seem far more settled than I want to be.  People my age are married and own houses.  Good or bad, they have careers.  No one seems to be trying anything new, or deviating from the American dream if they can help it.  My wanderlust makes me an oddity, so I’ve stopped sharing much personal information.  I don’t belong here.

I think I have a lot to learn about the type of environment I want to live in.  I don’t think it’s the geography that matters (as long as I can ski), or the population density.  Instead, I think I want to live somewhere where there are interesting, ambitious people.  People who are eager to try new things, who like to experiment.  The people I surround myself with change my core story.

I plan to move  to Los Angeles this spring.  I’ve never lived anywhere like it, and I’m very interested to learn how I feel about that environment.  Will I find it challenging and stimulating?  Or will it feel too busy and overwhelming?  What will I learn there?

* * *

What makes an environment home for you?  Is it the people?  Is the setting enough?  Do you consider other things entirely?

5 Lessons I Don’t Want to Learn

15 Sep

Sorry, no credit or debit cards accepted.My trip to Michigan was depressing.  It usually is.  I was able to see almost all of my friends and family though, and it was great to spend some time with them, to be a part of their lives.  I miss that so much.

However, so many of those people I love are struggling in one way or another.  Most people are struggling financially — jobs are hard to come by and good jobs are all but nonexistent.  At the same time, the restaurant where my mom works, which my best friend’s family owns, is struggling to find decent employees.  I only saw one person who seemed truly happy and excited about her life.

I’m working to rewrite my core story and my trip home reminded me how I came by the beliefs I’m trying to change.  Here are some of the things I saw while I was there:

  • Financial insecurity is normal.  Real prosperity is an unrealistic goal.
  • Work is something we all have to suffer through; no one enjoys their job, but we have to have money.
  • There is always too much to do, so something must be sacrificed.  Usually it will be the sacrifice of a dream or a goal to reality.
  • You can’t count on anyone to help you.  Even if someone wants to help, they’re probably struggling too so how can they offer you anything?
  • It’s always best to be cautious.  Things could turn for the worst at any moment, so be prepared.

Everything there is treated as a zero-sum game.  People who are successful are regarded with resentment and suspicion — obviously they couldn’t have achieved that success without taking something from someone else.  People are reluctant to help others unless they can see a direct pay off.  Fear is always, always present and drives most decisions.  Everyone suffers from a poverty mentality and that is the part of my core story that I am trying to change.

Prosperity, not poverty.

Faith, not fear.

Abundance, not absence.

I can do this.

“Used to daydream in that small town”

6 Sep

I’m going home today.  Home being the small town where I grew up and where my family still lives.  I moved away almost three years ago, and for a while I visited about once every seven months (it just worked out that way), but I haven’t been there in a year.  I’m excited for a visit.

While I’m very glad I left and got out into the world a bit.  (And just a bit — there’s still so much I need to see and do.), I’m also glad I grew up there.  Less than 2,000 people live in my hometown.  I know of one place that has wireless (fortunately it’s one of my favorite places anyway) and cell phone reception will be spotty at best.

In such a small town, it’s easy to feel like you know everyone.  I actually know whom I would have married had I stayed — not due to overwhelming attraction, but because we were close the same age, both reasonably intelligent and attractive, and had a lot of mutual friends, both personally and through various generations of our family.  He left too, but had either of us wanted to stay there wasn’t really anyone else to date.

Small towns like that are stereotyped as narrow-minded.  Some probably are, but mine wasn’t.  Stupidity and laziness would make you a pariah, but working hard and being kind would get nearly anything forgiven.  I’ve always been fat and I’ve never shaved or wore a bra or make-up; you’d think I’d have been an easy target, but instead I was treated like a valued member of the community.  I might have been a bit odd, but I was their oddity and in a lot of ways I still am.

John Mellencamp sums it up nicely:

No I cannot forget where it is that I come from
I cannot forget the people who love me
Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be

I’m going home, and while I have no desire to stay, I’m glad it’s home.

Every night is ladies night.

9 Dec
A distillery oven loaded with agave "piña...
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Reverb10 Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans. (Author: Shauna Reid)

As I’ve mentioned, I’m not terribly social.  I do go out from time to time though, and since I do it only when I feel inclined to do so, I almost always have a great time.  What really stands out is being back in Michigan for a visit and heading to the bar to watch my buddies’ band play.  I met up with three close friends and the four of us talked, laughed, drank, and danced as our friends played some amazing music and our two favorite bartenders made everything better. I looked amazing in the dress I wore to my cousin’s wedding and my friends are always beautiful.

The summer before I moved I went out to that bar with those friends at least once a week.  That’s actually how they became my friends.  I don’t miss much about my life in Michigan, but I do miss them and I do miss that place.  We might have been coming together to drink because the rest of our lives were miserable, but that didn’t negate anyone’s wonderfulness.  It was home and they were family…those things are still true, but they’re so much farther away.

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And in another world…

5 Dec

Reverb10: Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)

My relationship with Chef ended, and while it obviously upset me at first, I am remarkably okay with it.  It was an important relationship and I enjoyed it, but I also knew from the beginning that our situation could only be temporary.  Things ended, not as I wanted them to, but as we knew they would.  It’s okay.

No, what’s more interesting is what I didn’t let go of.  Claytor.  It’s been over two years and I still miss him.  I hate that our friendship came to this point and I hate that there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do or anything he’s willing to do.  I resent that when I went to the bar on my trip home, he was there to watch me; not to talk to me, not to fight with me, but simply to watch me.  I hate that we’re both unhappy with the situation and I hate him for his part in creating it.

I know that I should have let this go long ago, but I think losing him broke me and I’m still putting the pieces back together.

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After the thrill of living is gone?

5 Dec

Reverb10: Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffery Davis)

This prompt is difficult for me to answer because I don’t really make an effort to cultivate a sense of wonder, I just have one.  Every time I catch a glimpse of the mountains surrounding me I experience wonder.  Or when I read a fantastic bit of fiction, or when I notice how much my friends’ children have changed, or when I manage to catch a glimpse of nearly anything out of my mundane.

Every time I hear that John Mellencamp song, “Jack and Diane,” I dwell on these lines:

“Say uh, oh yeah life goes on
Long after the thrill of livin’ is gone
Say uh, oh yeah life goes on
Long after the thrill of livin’ is gone. They walk on.”

After the thrill of living is gone?  When does that happen?  How?  I’m 26, and I’m still excited about seeing toads.  (On my last visit home to Michigan I found one as I was crossing the street.  One of the joys of being from a small town is the ability to be the jackass chasing a toad down the street in the middle of the night without having to worry about disrupting traffic.  When I caught it I brought it to Georgia, who also feels that sense of wonder, we admired it for a few minutes while it stared at us resentfully, and then released it.)

I guess I cultivated a sense of wonder in my life by living it.

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