Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Joe Cool

With Christmas comes people returning home if they live far away from home and fleeing from home if they live there. This is good and bad in that it provides a great opportunity to see people who are more than a car ride away, but it also highlights how nice it would be if some of these individuals were around more often (related to my last post). Over the past year or so, I have had the opportunity to reconnect with someone who I went to school with up to sixth grade named Joe, and when he is in town, we try to make time to go grab coffee or lunch at Panera or something like that. Joe and I were friends all through grade school and parted ways for about 15 years through divergent school choices. Thanks to the magic of Facebook, we picked up more or less right where we left off. It's weird to go 15 years with only passing knowledge of someone, and then to return to a place in your mind playing roller hockey in his driveway for hours on hours without a hiccup.

Joe and I grabbed coffee this morning, and you know what? I'm more convinced than ever that Joe is a cool guy. This is true for many reasons, but the reason that sticks out to me is the unabashed and proud way he speaks of Royal Oak and Michigan. Joe currently lives and works in Virginia, a stone's throw from Washington D.C. (the place where jobs are plentiful and numbers are growing from an ever-expanding federal government), a place where many people desire living and the climate is more moderate than here. Despite this, Joe wants nothing more than to, sometime soon, find work and purpose back home.

To someone like me, this is incredibly touching and valuable. Over the past years, we have been taught to feel something approaching shame and embarrassment when it is time to tell others that we live in Michigan. You turn your eyes down in shame and feel like when you say "I live in Michigan" there's almost an immediate need to explain away our situation so as to avoid pity from our discussion partner. The bad news, the media, the economy, the foreclosures, the Detroit school system - they all conspire to take the pride away from our home. It really does make it harder than it should be to love Michigan.

And every once in awhile you talk to someone like Joe, someone who shares my point of view of pure love and appreciation of this state, and it reinforces to me again that I am not alone in a lake rowing in circles. I don't have to feel shame when I talk to Joe about our pros and cons, and I don't have any reason or need to explain to him why I choose to live here. He understands because there is nothing to understand. It just makes sense and my position is one of envy, not of pity.

Aside from my massive ego and need for self-indulgence, this is the real reason why I am still using valuable possible TV-watching time to maintain my weblog. My readership remains one hundred thousand miles from where I would like it to be (and even my rudimentary expectations are not that high), but it is more than worth it if it helps you to know that there are at least two other people in this world (me and Joe) who need no explanation from you. If this is your home, if this is where you would like your home to be, or if you stand up for Michigan wherever you are, we're with you, and we're glad to have you on the team.

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