I have lived in Michigan my entire life. The first half of my life took place in Charlotte, MI. The second half of my life has taken place in Lansing. Through all of my years as a Michigander I have heard an enormous amount of complaining from the people that live here about how terrible of a place this is to live. This of course has been heightened in the past 10 or so years due to the rapid decline of the state’s economy.
A lot of people talk of leaving, and a lot of people have left. There are a considerable amount of young people leaving the state for greener pastures either to go to school or after they complete school. Many of them will never return.
I admit I too have thought about leaving many times. There is a very large part of me that would like nothing more than to pack my bags and explore the world. Just to find out what all of the fuss is about. There is, however, an even larger part of me that realizes that I need to stay. Maybe the idea of staying in a dying state sounds strange to you, so let me explain why.
I believe that Michigan can be a capitol of creativity. I see so much untapped potential in the people here.
People who for generations never dreamed of doing anything besides what their parents did, working in the automobile factories. Those factories are gone now and we are left with this large population of out-of-work citizens that likely have no idea what to do with their lives. Inside everyone is some kind of creative genius just waiting to come out. It may not come in the same ways for everyone, but I do think that it is there. If this group of people who have lived here, like me, there entire lives could just get in touch with that creative vision inside of them, the combined force of artistic creation would be incredible.
Creativity has historically thrived in impoverished communities. I think this happens for a number of reasons. An obvious reason would be that people who do not have jobs have much more free time to think and express their thoughts through various mediums. Another likely cause is that in poorer areas housing prices are much lower ( this is definitely the case here in Lansing) and artists generally do not make enough money to live the rich life. I also imagine that the pain that a person goes through while struggling to find ways to eat unlocks something inside of them to reveal the artist within. It is tragic that things have gotten the way they are around here, but we can also look at this in a positive light. Having nothing is sometimes the greatest motivator that inspires greatness.
How can we achieve this? If your initial reaction when things get tough is to leave and find something better, I say farewell to you and good luck in your travels. However, if your instinct is to stay and to work through the troubles all around us then you are needed now more than ever. I want to be a part of the change this state needs and I hope that everybody reading this will agree. We have been given an opportunity to reinvent the state of Michigan into whatever we want it to be. We are no longer the state that makes all of the cars, and we won’t ever be again. The auto industry has abandoned this state and its people. It is time to say goodbye to that part of our history and to rebuild. It is not going to be easy and things will probably get much worse before then even begin to get slightly better. So ask yourself if moving away to work just another job is all you want out of life, or if you want to be a part of something bigger. We can do this, we can make this state great again. At least that is what I plan to do, but I can’t do it alone.