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Some people get new cars for their midlife crisis. One woman wants Motor City.

This is the fourth installment of the Detroit Stories series. If you haven’t already done so, check out the background of Detroit Stories  and the the first three installments: an interns take on Detroit, Motown to Manhattan and Becoming a Detroiter

This is a guest post by... let's call her Gingham. I met Gingham through comments and subsequent emails. We met in person at Honey Bee Market over the summer.

Like a lot of suburbanites that were raised in the post-1967 Detroit area, Gingham (short for 'Groovin on Grey Hair and Moxie') grew up believing that Detroit proper was mainly good for three things: (1) concerts, (2) baseball games, and (3) lamb on a spit. That is, until this year. She has asked to remain incognito for now so that the power of Google does not tip off her employer to her impending re-relocation to The D.

It has been said that the quality that attracts a person to a new lover is often the very thing they felt was missing in their previous relationship. 

I've been in a stable, generally happy relationship with my chosen hometown for a long time now. She has been good to me, my clean, cultured city of abundance (the location of which I will enigmatically say only is somewhere in the quadruple digits of miles away). She has taught me to throw myself into nature with reverence and delight; taught me self-care, both inside and out; taught me to slow down, have fun, and be kind.

And yet I've come to that place where I'm kinda done with her sublime but sanitized scene. Yeah, *snap*. Unsurprisingly, I've also reached middle age. And if I got nothing else out of that psychotherapy degree that I'm still paying off, I got an appreciation and understanding that people change. It's normal. It's nobody's fault. And most relationship problems come from failing to make room for the reality of that. (An insight for which I will never regret the hefty student loan debt.)

About this time last year—as I was falling out of love with my old life—my high school and college buddies began posting anecdotes, videos, and news items that made me see my first hometown, Detroit, through new eyes. The lively arts scene, the civic engagement, the entrepreneurial efforts, the urban farming movement, the stirrings of new investment, you know what I'm talkin' about—this was not the Detroit I left 20 years ago! 

I saw what the people of Detroit were doing for themselves and, more importantly—for each other—their artistry, their humility, their dedication, their generosity and collaborative spirit, their sense of pride in place and history—and it just made me deeply proud. Proud because it takes more than money and political self-determination to bring a city to life. You need shared values and collective action and for that you need trust—the kind of trust that reaches across the differences that divide people. It's truly frickin' magical when it happens and, given a transporter or a time machine, I can't think of a more exciting time or place to be in a city's history. 

From then on, every time I read or heard about somebody doing something good on behalf of The D, I got so verklempt that I had to quickly fan myself and fake like I had just accidentally swallowed a gob of Coney Island relish and mustard. I wanted in. I surprised myself with just how badly I wanted in. I wanted everybody to know that DETROIT is where I'm from. 

Since then, things have just clicked. I mean like "cosmic synchronicity", "higher power", "the seas part", "makes you think it was meant to be" sort of clicked. Some say that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Detroit has plenty of the latter. It took me doing only a bit of the former by reaching out to a few Detroit movers and shakers that I read about on Detroit Moxie, Model D, and other blogs, and, before I knew it, we were out for a series of visits and getting a personalized tour of neighborhoods and insights into daily life in The D. 

Last month, we headed back again, the fourth trip in as many months. But this time to buy a beautiful, old, boarded-up house on the east side. (More on that another time.) It's gonna take a lot of love to make it habitable. And we aren't totally clear on how all the funding for it is gonna materialize. But like everything else about this middle age transformation, it's a leap of faith, and one that couldn't feel more right.

So, Detroiters, you couldn't have done a better recruiting job if you all got together and planned it. I can't wait to be your neighbor. I know, for better or for worse, whether I intend to or not, I'm gonna be a gentrifier too. (More thoughts on that another time, too.) But what I most want you to know is that I'm coming back because I want to be a contributor to, not just a consumer of, what makes Detroit Detroit. I hope to make you as proud to call me yours as you have made me of you. (Damn, there I go again. *Fans self*. Talk amongst yourselves.)
I'm hoping Gingham will stop back in and keep us updated on her progress in moving to Detroit.

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Reader Comments (3)

Awesome story! So happy that you shared it with us!

October 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterToka313

Welcome home! I am sure the D is better off for it.

October 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJD

Great story and welcome home! Enjoy Detroit, I may move back to Michigan soon.

May 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHarry

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