October flew by – our inaugural Challenge with MACC Development successfully completed, apples from my first trip to a Michigan cider mill picked, and the arrival of my business cards at HAA all making this month a memorable transition into real life in Detroit. Two months into Challenge Detroit, I think it’s finally sinking in that I live here.
One weekend this month included a visit to Seattle, WA. I knew I was bound to experience a level of culture shock, but I didn’t realize how much my understanding of convenience has changed since moving here. There are grocery stores (almost all of them bigger than Whole Foods!) nearly every six blocks in the city; not a single empty storefront in any area we visited (apart from those under construction, which is booming); people populating the downtown and commercial centers at all hours of the day and night. I would be lying not to admit that I was jealous of the abundance of convenient amenities, consistent forms (note the plural word) of public transit, and presence main stream retailers that Seattle offers on every block. I was asked by many there (including myself…) – so why do you live in Detroit? It’s a question I had previously felt primed to answering. Sometimes, though, especially when bombarded with a lifestyle I was once accustomed to, it’s hard to fully explain the reasons why.
Moving to Detroit, at least right now, means making a series of lifestyle trades in exchange for a uniquely meaningful and connected experience. This city differs structurally from others that have names and downtowns and spirit as big as Detroit’s, and these differences alter the definition of convenience in my daily life. But what do I get in return? I get to be a contributing member in a community that cares. I get to work at an architecture firm that plays an important role in this city’s history and future. I get to collaborate with passionate people and organizations to incrementally improve the lives of Detroit residents. I get four sports teams to support year-round. I get to see a city transform day by day in ways that model the future of American cities. I get to be challenged by big problems with complicated solutions, and watch them play out as I take part in change. I also get to be surrounded by talented, caring friends, and learn about the complex history of this fascinating place every day. When I reflect on all of the opportunities that I’m lucky enough to stumble into, there’s no question about the value of a lifestyle in Detroit, despite the additional fifteen minutes it takes me to get to a grocery store here.
My surface-level experience as a visitor to Seattle may have forced me to momentarily question my decision to live in motor city. But Detroit doesn’t need me to tell you all the reasons why living here right now is great. And we’re getting there. We are there.