The Enthusiasm of the Newly Converted

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, near Munising

I know I’m not the first person in the history of the planet to be an enthusiastic convert to a new idea or attitude, but it feels weird. Almost disingenuous. Here’s what I mean:

Almost eleven years ago when we first moved to Michigan from our longtime home state of Ohio, I wasn’t particularly thrilled, to be honest.  Not only did it mean I’d have to finish my Master’s degree at a new school (and lose credits for transferring), but I also had to leave my fabulous job at the Columbus Metropolitan Library, rated one of the best libraries in the country. I’d been working there for less than a year at the time, so I was heartbroken. Otherwise, much of my disdain for the state of Michigan came from my Buckeye blood and loyalty to my alma mater, I admit. We Buckeyes sing songs about the “…whole state of Michigan…”, if you know what I mean. So basically, my opinion of the state was based on complete ignorance.

Along the shore of Lake Michigan

For the first few years after we got here I still had some resistance to immersing myself into the Michigan way of life, always feeling more at home in Ohio. I still identified myself as “an Ohioan living in Michigan.” It felt somehow untrue to say I was a Michigander (or Michiganian, if you prefer, but they both sound weird).  And when I would listen to conversations among my native Michigan friends, or hear other Michiganders talking, I never really “got” why they seemed to be so proud of their state. I mean, it has Detroit, for crying out loud. We all know what the rest of the world thinks of that beleaguered city — and I was no different. At first.

After a few years I finally accepted that this was now “home,” but it wasn’t until we took our first vacation “up north” that I understood the awesome-ness of Michigan. (“Up North” means the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in local parlance. See, they even have their own language here!) It took us eight years to get around to taking that long drive up I-75, but it changed my feelings about Michigan permanently. I noticed that I started answering that traveler’s question — “where are you from?” — differently. I was no longer the Ohioan living in Michigan. I was just “from Michigan.” Not only was it simpler, but it felt ok.

The Mackinac Bridge, gateway to the UP

And more recently I find myself wanting to tell people the good things about Michigan, to stand up for it when I hear negative comments. (Don’t even get me started about Detroit….)  When I sign up for a new website, I often choose user names like “MichiganKim”, making my state of residence part of my online identity. Is that weird? I know I’ll never be a “true” Michigander, but sometimes I feel like I’m an ambassador teaching other people about the mitten state. Not that Ohio isn’t great too, but up here we’re surrounded by more lakes than you can shake a stick at, as well as fabulous parks, hiking & biking trails, and four — count ’em — four Great Lakes. Our lives have been changed a great deal by the easy access to all this nature, and I’d be very disappointed if we had to move away now. (Well, unless we were going to Hawaii or Alaska….just sayin.)

Along the way I found myself subscribing to some fabulous blogs that celebrate Michigan. There’s Michigan in Pictures, and Michigan Architecture, as well as the travel-related sites Pure Michigan Connect and Absolute Michigan. And speaking of travel, when you read this, we’ll be enjoying our vacation Up North once again. We’re taking our kayaks with us, and will be hiking and birdwatching too. I’m sure the time will go by too quickly, but I look forward to sharing some of the natural beauty of Michigan with you when I get back. (Keep your fingers crossed that we get to see a Bald Eagle…)

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7 Responses to The Enthusiasm of the Newly Converted

  1. As a native Iowawegian, I can appreciate your reluctance to claim your state, and also your eventual realization that it’s really a pretty decent place to live. It certainly took me a while. Your beautifully written post reminds me of my belated discovery of my own state, minus the more spectacular attributes of yours. You have Great Lakes, we have little ones, mostly surrounded by corn and beans. But we have more and more restored prairies and wetlands—-one just a short walk down the road from my parents’ farm. We have neighbors that help each other. We have what we need. I’m in Missouri now, but I think of myself as an Iowan. But, honestly, your part of Michigan sounds like paradise.

    Randy
    http://nadiasyard.com

    • Kim says:

      Hi Randy,
      I think every state has its positive attributes if we just take the time to look for them. I hope to someday visit Iowa. And Missouri. Hmm, maybe a Mississippi River Cruise could get me to both of them in the same trip….have you ever done one of those?
      Kim

  2. Shelley says:

    So glad you are starting to enjoy Michigan. Northern Michigan is the true hidden jewel. So many great places to visit – so many things to experience. We love escaping to our cabin each weekend up there. (I try to forget about Detroit and then sometimes pray that it turns around.)
    Enjoyed your photos!

    • Kim says:

      Thanks Shelley! I hope you’ll come back to see the photos from our week up north. We had such a great time, and didn’t want to come back tonight. But we did, and were welcomed home by a broken freezer. Yep, vacation’s over all right!

      I sure hope you’re having a nice time in your cabin too.

  3. Sharon says:

    Kim,
    This makes me want to go across the bridge again. We spent our honeymoon in 1971 driving up north and stopping and seeing all the sights. Lake Superior is breathtakingly beautiful! I’m sure you and Eric will enjoy lots of “nature” on your trip to the U.P.
    Sharon

    • Kim says:

      Oh Sharon, we’re having a great time. We’ve done all the things we planned to do, and got to see a Bald Eagle, Sandhill Cranes, Ospreys on a nest, and many more great birds. No bear or moose so far, but we’re not done yet! Can’t wait to write all about it when we get home.

  4. laurahartson says:

    pretty pics, it looks idyllic

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