This post was inspired by our recent move to the Detroit area from out of state.
When opportunity comes knocking, don’t slam the door in its face. Always a credo I have lived under throughout my life. While change can be big and scary, I always get some sense of exhilaration from moving to a new town. I love the mystery of finding that new awesome spot for lunch, a new park that the kids will love, or the fun festivals that give a locale its character. I guess it is no mystery that I have moved around quite a bit since I graduated from college. And no, I was not running from the law – I just happened to work in the hospitality industry and moved often to advance my career. When my husband came home and asked how I felt about the possibility of moving to Detroit, I really didn’t know what to think. I had been to downtown Detroit once when I was in high school, and I didn’t really remember much of the experience. All I knew about Detroit was what I heard in the media. And at this point in my life, I usually believe about half of what I hear from the popular media. So, we talked about it and decided it sounded like too good of an opportunity to pass up.
When we told people we were moving to Detroit, everyone said, “Really? I am so sorry,” or “why would you want to move there?” I don’t understand why someone would say this when they have never been to this city. Yes, the city does have it own set of issues, but I believe you could probably say the same for many other cities across the country. Cities have problems, that is just a truth that exists. While the media portrays the city of Detroit as this miserable hopeless place that people should flee, it is amazing to see what kind of city actually exists. I can look at this objectively, as I am not a native Michigander so I don’t possess the same sense of “hometown pride” that others that were born and raised here might have. What I have noticed in my short time here is a place that has this crazy frenetic energy. It appears as if people have this sense of hope, like everything is going to be okay if they just keep moving forward.
To truly understand a place, I feel it is important to be still and watch what goes on around you. As I write this, I am being quite cliché and sitting in my favorite coffee house in downtown Detroit – The Roasting Plant. I love one of their tag lines, “Fueling the Motor City.” – It is as if they believe they are keeping the city of Detroit moving. Besides having a terrific cup of coffee, they are also located in a great part of the city, Campus Martius – a crazy hub of activity. Watching all of the young professionals grabbing their important cup of human-fuel on their way into the various office buildings. People are sitting at tables like me and tapping away at their computers. One cannot be sure if they are actually working or just checking the sports scores from last night. Trying to look official while easing into a busy Friday. Cars keep moving around the circle, trying to get where they are going, dodging the multitude of pedestrians attempting to cross the street anywhere but in the crosswalks.
This place is always moving. Shuttle buses weave through the city with “Opportunity Detroit” splashed across the side – like a rally cry to those who live here. Inspiring everyone with an idea that the city is sitting on the verge of greatness. There is an opportunity for something amazing to happen if everyone keeps moving forward. The city is alive and buzzing with activity. Crews are setting up a stage for an upcoming concert in Campus Martius; vendors are setting up booths in Cadillac Square to sell their goods to all who come by to visit. Food trucks are parked, primed and ready for the lunch rush. People are taking a mid-morning break to escape the confines of their office buildings and soak up some late summer sunshine. I’m still looking for the abysmal existence that is supposed to belong to this city. I am not naive enough to believe that it doesn’t exist, but you cannot find it in this part of the city.
It’s high noon, and people are still on the move. An afternoon concert is entertaining the masses while they hang out by the food trucks, eat their lunches, enjoy the weather, and dance when the mood strikes. People move about enjoying their afternoon, wondering how long they can stretch their lunch hour without being missed.
When the workday concludes, people pour out of the various office buildings to gather together to enjoy their summer. They eat, drink, listen to music, and laugh. They gather together to prepare to see their beloved Tigers or Lions. Fans of all ages dressed in their team colors enjoy the scene prior to heading over to the game, moving in the same direction.
There is a true sense of community in Detroit. The energy flows throughout this city and is a contagious force. When Detroit made a bid to host the X-Games and lost out to another city, did they sit around wringing their hands about the injustices of life? No, they went back to work and are in the process of developing their own event for the city. The can-do spirit here seems to defy reason. Despite the financial crisis that has put the city on the brink, the attitude is one of defiance – this will not break the spirit of those living here, they simply will not allow it to happen. They have an immense amount of pride and love for their city. They keep moving forward.
The media wants everyone to think that Detroit is all doom and gloom. Problems do exist, but it does not dictate the attitude of its residents. I would challenge those naysayers to come and get a true representation of what Detroit and its people are all about. They are not about giving up and going into hiding. They are about rolling up their sleeves and moving forward to prove everyone wrong about their city.
Formulating your own opinions prior to making an informed decision about something may not always be a popular or hip thing to do – people believe it is important to listen and follow what the popular media feeds us. We allow our opinions to be formed by Twitter, Facebook, and whatever major celebrity might be blogging about. Had I listened to the popular media and those who thought their opinion was worth sharing, I might have missed out on experiencing life. Had my thoughts been governed by what I read online or watched on television, I never would have discovered many great places nor had as many wonderful experiences like we are having in the “D”!