One year ago today, I moved to Grand Rapids, MI. My body was six pounds lighter, my hair was a foot longer, and I had no cavities.
In one year’s time:
I’ve finished three books and started six. My subscription to Good Magazine has expired and I’ve replaced it with Wired Magazine. I’ve had my wallet stolen, my heart broken and worn high heels two times. I’ve seen my family twice and visited my best friend once.
I’ve ran a beer mile, swam half a mile everyday for a month, switched road tires for cyclocross tires and back again, attempted the April Bike Challenge with Chrisapapolis, and completed the June Vegan Challenge with Matters. I’ve developed a proclivity for monthly challenges and learned that weather cannot deter my impulse to move.
Since starting at The Rapidian, I’ve submitted 10 staff editorials, 24 dev blog entries, 28 stories for fun (Midtown and my own) and edited 14 Catalyst Radio shows. We won Best In Show at the WMPRSA PRoof Awards (all credit goes to Roberta F. King at GRCF). We lost a dear co-worker and weathered through another’s car accident. My video editing skills have rusted while I’ve learned how to produce for radio. I’ve been on four panels, DJ-ed twice on WYCE and initiated the process for a civic media food platform. I occasionally organize the Vegilantes and have joined two boards: Midtown Neighborhood Association and Western College Program Alumni Association.
I am learning to prioritize so I have time to chase after the things I want. I’ve also realized I need to learn how to forgive myself. It’s been a year, but I’m still haunted by having broken someone’s heart. After 2.5 years of bike commuting, my 47 cm Honky Tonk is proving to be my most prized possession.
I’ve healed quite a bit from having steeped in a toxic workplace in Portland and feel like I can ask for help again. I know it won’t somehow be held against me as a weakness in character.
Despite this, I’ve found myself paralyzed at times by “West Michigan Nice.” Loosely speaking, people here avoid directness and confrontation. Because I’m from Silicon Valley, “efficiency” is hammered into me. Being direct is understood as a form of honesty and earnestness; feedback saves time and is critical for better performance.
“West Michigan Nice” generally means people shy away from saying how they really feel. Instead of declining participation in events and projects, it is a part of Grand Rapids culture to commit without intending to follow through or to delay a definite “no” so as not to offend. Criticism is not given or it comes late in the game. Tenuous situations are coated in a broken candy shell.
Not everyone speaks it, but trying to navigate this language has left me feeling skittish. It’s something I can’t seem to do except in written communication. When I try, I feel like I’ve either blundered or blathered. Maybe because I can’t master this doublespeak, I feel tormented by how powerless my words are and, in some ways, am experiencing a loss of identity.
The most winning thing about Grand Rapids is that you can always call up an acquaintance for tea or beer. Grand Rapidians are open to friendships, and that’s something I hold close to my heart.
What I’ve learned about Michigan(ders):
- There are seasons
- Beard season
- Coupling season (winter)
- Break-up season (late spring, early summer)
- The visibility of time (I high-five low branches when I run; I’ve felt them change from bones to folios)
- “I’ll see you around, I’m sure.”
- “Right?” as a way of saying “I know, I agree”
- Sexual jokes, toilet humor as people (mostly men) break out from the Dutch Christian Reformed culture
- A need to be clever at all times that shares the continuum with sarcasm and passive aggression
- Grand Rapids is a cat town
What I miss about Portland:
- Portland’s shade of blue hydrangeas
- Food carts
- Tech community
- Twilight Criterium
- Plentiful microbreweries
- Friends and PCM coworkers
The nouns that make up my Grand Rapids:
- The Rapidian
- Sunday Soup/Sundaes at The DAAC
- Fulton Street Farmers Market
- “Love nature” at Congress Elementary School
- This milk crate hoop and amusing license plate, both on Warren SE, on my bike ride to work:
- The staple-pocked post outside of Martha’s
- Nantucket Baking Company (9:15-ish in the morning is the best time to go. The loaves are still hot, but not too hot to slice)
- MadCap and co.
- Gaia‘s “Almost Famous” cookie
- Stella’s and Brick Road
- Heather Bryant’s savory maple granola
- The many strong women in my life
- I know who my friends are and learned that I have many. I am incredibly grateful for how forgiving and generous they are.
- The details
- Midtown and The Woods
- YMCA pool
- Soft rose cigars in the summer and fall
- Five bedroom windows that get me up with the sun