Hi. I'm Natalie. I'm a self-employed writer, I'm 31, and, if you listen to the headlines, I don't exist. Like a centaur or a yeti, the well-educated, career-driven, creative-class Millennial like myself is not found in the wild here in Michigan. Supposedly, we've all left or are desperately attempting to do so.
Surprise! Not only am I a Michigander by choice (seriously, my husband is a musician; we could literally be anywhere), I get offended when people ask why we're “still here.” I try to break it down as simply as I can for them: I know Michigan's challenges as well as anyone, but I love it here, and I know – not think, know – we're on our way back.
But I get it. As a born and bred Up North girl, I know a thing or two about the impulse to positively correlate success and getting out of Dodge. I may adore my little hometown of Tawas, but the right opportunities for me honestly aren't there. You know, like the opportunity to eat Indian food or the opportunity to see more than one movie in a theater per month. Growing up, there was no doubt in my mind that I would end up in “the city,” which, for those of you not from Northeast Michigan, is everything south of Bay City. (Isn't that adorable? Don't you want to find a Northerner and pinch our cheeks?).
There was never any doubt in my mind, however, that I would put down roots in state. I've traveled; I've lived overseas. What I've learned from those experiences, however, is that Michigan is really stinking awesome. Sometimes it takes getting away to realize what having 3,126 miles of shoreline really means, or just how insanely wonderful ArtPrize truly is. It's also astounding how homogenous every other state is when you consider the cultural and demographic variety we have, from Grand Rapids to Marquette to Traverse City to Detroit.
And the truth is, I am just a Michigander. I play euchre and drink pop and am insulted when people buy foreign cars. I brag about craft beer and know everything about Thomas Dewey and Sanjay Gupta. I knew I was going to marry my husband on our first date when he slid his glasses down on his nose and made a Carl Levin joke. Michigan is who I am inside.
And here's the other part: I actually believe in Michigan's future. I'm no ideologue, either. I write about business and development, meaning I spend all day scouting stories and interviewing business owners and developers. Guess what? The stories are getting easier to find. The investments are growing. The entrepreneurial visions of so many are finally taking shape.
What's even more meaningful for me is that my career is propelled forward by Michigan. Living in Ann Arbor, I'm a quick drive from four major media markets. And lucky me, I write about growth in the state with the most growth potential. As she writes in her book, “Lean In,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg believes in choosing employers by their growth potential. Being self-employed, the market in which I work is my employer of sorts, and there couldn't be a better one than Michigan.
That's not just true for me. People are always telling my husband he should move to Nashville, as if he's vying to be the next Taylor Swift. Instead, being close to all of those markets benefits him as well, as does living down the street from such famous venues as the Blind Pig and the Ark. Honestly, anyone who has questions about the viability of growing a music career in Michigan should direct them to Jack White, Aretha Franklin, Sufjan Stevens or Eminem. I mean, really. My mom grew up like one neighborhood over from Madonna.
It goes without saying that neither my husband nor I chose our careers for the job stability or retirement packages. I am a writer and he is a musician for two powerful reasons: our love for our craft and our belief in ourselves. We live in Michigan for the same reasons. We love it here, and we believe in The Mitten.