The Best Thing to Do

By October, it was becoming clear to me, though I couched it in a sea of maybes, that if we want to build connections and be a part of communities we care about, if life is fleeting and we don’t really know how long we have, if these battles are critical now—and they are—then maybe it’s foolish to think that in my overall life trajectory I would still prefer to have moved away and then come back, when I have no control over the distant future and only some control of what’s coming next. So maybe, maybe the best thing is to finally do the things we want to do right now, live somewhere in our lifelong home state, which has so much going for it and yet so many profit-hungry Republicans stacked against it, to work to make the place above all other places in our lives a better place, see our best friends on the weekends and help out our parents and hopefully be part of the city we have watched and cared for and had so many beautiful memories in already.

Maybe that’s the best thing to do.

* * *

That’s how I ended my post, “Home Again,” where I talked about coming home to Ann Arbor after a long trip, and how soon, I would say goodbye to that city I had lived in for the past decade. The post ended up being more about leaving than returning. On the other hand, I ended by saying that I wanted to stay in this state. I wrote about how over the years we had hoped for the sliver of a chance of a job for Cooper in Detroit, so that we could, in a way, move home again. (Both of us grew up just a few blocks outside Detroit city limits.) That was the ideal next step, for both of us.

In the end, there were no hard choices for us to make. We were insanely fortunate. We didn’t have to choose between a job and our families, and I can still vote in Michigan next year, for regional transit* and independent redistricting and a Democrat for governor, and visit Lake Michigan on the weekends. Cooper had one job offer, for a job we had hoped for years would open up at the right time, and he accepted. We moved to Detroit in July.

Now it’s September. It turns out that it’s intimidating to write a blog post for which you’ve picked the ambitious title, “The Best Thing to Do.” It’s even harder when in your day-to-day life, you don’t feel the conviction that this was the best thing to do—not that there’s something I would have rather done! This is the only future I was rooting for, and it’s still the only one I really want: to move to Detroit and make a home here. To learn the people and the streets and the buildings, the bends of the river, and figure out how I fit in. But how do I build that future in the present, instead of just imagining it?

* * *

It hasn’t fully sunk in yet, I don’t think. It’s easy to feel like the luckiest person when you’re about to move into your dream apartment in the city you’ve intended to live in, off and on, for the past seven years. But it’s less easy to feel lucky when the washing machine, garbage disposal, oven, and dishwasher all don’t work on move-in day (I shed many tears, and we seriously considered breaking our lease). You start to feel downright cursed after two weeks of living in a construction zone you hadn’t expected, while the pretty old windows you wanted functional are being torn out and replaced in very messy fits and starts. I urgently wanted to get settled and start living this new life, but weeks later, half our belongings were still in boxes, inaccessibly stacked in closets to keep them safe from hundred-year-old dust. Cooper absolutely didn’t have those weeks to give up: he needs to finish his dissertation.

So Detroit is where I am now, in a big apartment just minutes from the Detroit River, getting ready to live the life I’ve dreamed about. We have eleven new vinyl windows on three sides of our apartment. Our own chickens may still be a ways off, but this home checks all the important boxes I wrote about before (the solar panels feel much more urgent than the chickens these days, but we don’t have those, either, since it’s a rental). Cooper will be a professor at Wayne State University, and I’ll have more time to write at home once I’m settled (and more time spent commuting in a car, but not every day, so that’s okay for now).

On our fourth day living in Detroit, I found myself standing in front of hundreds of people and speaking as one of two representatives from Motor City Freedom Riders at a big public meeting organized by MOSES to hold elected officials accountable (we need regional transit back on the ballot in 2018, along with expanded suburban bus service for Wayne County!). So in that sense, it feels like I plunged right in on one of the most important reasons to make our lives in this city: so that we can show up for the causes we care about, and try to make a difference in people’s lives.

I don’t feel like there’s a lot to show for the weeks since then—it already feels like autumn out there!—and time’s a-wasting. So here’s to getting organized, hitting publish on imperfect blog posts, and plunging in on everything else!

*Unfortunately, this was blocked from going on the ballot in 2018 by mean-spirited and short-sighted suburban politicians.

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