It’s my one-year Michiganniversary!
(What? Michiganniversary is totally a word. Stop looking at me like that.)
That’s right, twelve months ago, I piled everything I owned (and a few things I’d pilfered from my parent’s house) into my grandmother’s hand-me-down Oldsmobile and moved myself to a town in Michigan I’d never ever been to before.
This may not have been the most dramatic move I’d ever made. It’s not like I packed it all in and moved to the Amazon (done that) or quit my well-paying job in Japan to take up cat-sitting in a jungle in Thailand by myself (been there). And Michigan is certainly a fair cry from the chaos, smoggy skies and street food of China.
But that’s not to say I haven’t learned a whole lot from my almost-twelve-months here.
You ALL know what’s coming, right?
Because it’s a list.
10 Things I Learned From Living in Michigan for 12 Months
1. Things are good.
But, man, oh man, I love me some stuff.
I mean, not that I’m a hoarder or anything, but it’s just nice once again to have a place that is filled with all my own stuff. Including my collection of novelty beer bottle openers.
Okay, maybe I am a little bit a hoarder.
But can you blame me?
2. All states should be shaped like a body part.
It’s just so much easier to explain to someone where you live or where you’re going over the weekend when you have a map of the state right on your very own hand.
3. You can find foreign culture no matter where you live.
But yet on my one-mile walk to work each day I pass by a mosque, a Middle Eastern deli, an Italian restaurant, two Chinese restaurants, and one of those gaming shops where guys with chin-length hair sit around playing Dungeons and Dragons in the middle of the afternoon. Okay, so that last one may not sound all that foreign to you, but, every time I pass by it, I have to stop and stare because, honestly, you guys, I just don’t get it.
Also, since moving here I’ve been to a Greek Festival, a Dutch festival, a Scottish festival, a German village, a Renaissance fair and an asparagus festival. Again that last one may not sound all that foreign, but the parade featured a Hispanic Heritage Queen and they served everything from Korean hotdogs to asparagus burritos.
I was, of course, too full from deep-fried asparagus to try either.
But can you blame me?
4. “Doing work you like with people you don’t hate is more important than earning and growth potential.”Huffington Post. (In fact, I kind of plagiarized it, but I put quotes around it, so hopefully no one will sue me.)
The truth is that I could be making a lot more money doing what I do overseas than I currently am making in the States. I could also be getting a free apartment and free flights home and all the super cheap street food my super-cheap-street-food-loving-heart desires.
But, the one thing keeping me from running back overseas at the moment is that I like teaching in the States more than I ever did overseas. I get to work with students who, for the most part, need and want to learn English and aren’t just being forced to learn it against their will, which was the case with most of my students in China.
I also currently don’t want to strangle any of my coworkers.
And I’m pretty sure none of them want to strangle me.
Money can’t buy that, you guys.
5. I can cook. And bake. And pie-crust-make.
But not really because I liked to cook or bake. Simply because I liked to eat. And I really liked to not have to put on pants. So cooking and baking for me was just a means to an end. Or, more accurately, a means to no pants.
But, over the past twelve months, I’ve actually started enjoying cooking and baking.
I have an entire cupboard full of ingredients, including corn starch and quinoa and a whole bunch of other stuff I’m not entirely sure what to do with.
I’ve discovered you can drizzle pretty much anything in olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and stick it in the oven for a while and you’ll be good.
And I’ve made three pies from scratch so far. THREE! I’m pretty sure that’s some kind of world record.
6. Making friends outside of college/work/we-both-live-overseas-so-let’s-be-friends-situations is hard work.
And how many times have I promised to you that I was totally going to start making more friends outside of work? Like a million times, too, right?
And how many times have I actually done that? Like absolutely no times. Because talking to strangers is SCARY, okay?
But I promise to you this fall I’m totally going to make more friends.
(P.S. Anyone wanna move to Michigan and be my friend?)
7. You shouldn’t let your lack of friends/partners/random-people-you-can-sucker-into-doing-stuff-with-you stop you from doing stuff.
But I’ve always been a bit nervous about doing other things solo — especially things that I think are going to be really couple-y or groups-of-friends-y.
Sometimes it’s awkward.
Sometimes it’s fun.
And sometimes, like in the case of camping, it makes me feel like a superhero. An awkward superhero who took forever to make a fire.
But a superhero, nonetheless.
8. Pets make life better. And bloodier. And ruin-all-your-furniture-ier. But mostly better.
It doesn’t make any kind of sense.
But, man oh man, I love my cat more than is really recommended. And I have to say I’m a whole lot happier with that little fur-face in my life. Even if my back has started to resemble that of a torture victim’s from all the times she’s clawed her way up it.
9. The best way to remember why you love where you live is to show other people why you love where you live.
They loved it.
Seeing how much they loved my new hometown made me love my new hometown even more. Because, seriously, who wouldn’t love a town where you can get boozed up on beer and milkshakes while watching movies?
10. It’s entirely possible to be happy with the life choice you’ve made but still not be sure if it’s the right life choice for you.When my parents were visiting, they asked me if I liked Kalamazoo enough to live here long-term.
They asked it in that hopeful way — the way other parents might ask their daughter if that new boy she’s seeing just might the someone special she wants to settle down with.
I didn’t really know what to say.
I mean, I like it here. I really do.
But I’m still not sure if here is The One, you know?
Or if there even is a One for me.
Maybe I’ll settle down here. Or maybe I’ll move on.
All I know is my collection of novelty beer bottle openers are staying with me.What have you learned this past year?