Friday, September 19, 2008


The Free Press ran a column today under their "local comment" section of the newspaper written by Brian Pappas who is returning to Michigan after practicing law for 3 years in Chicago. Here is a portion of what he has to say.

"I love Michigan, and I love Detroit. I hold three degrees from Michigan universities. Aside from my dad, I don't know anyone else who will pause the TiVo to watch a Pure Michigan ad. Still, I left, moving to Chicago after law school to experience all that a successful city has to offer.

I felt guilty, but I wasn't alone. Many of my classmates left, too, for California and Virginia, New York and Florida. What we found is that we weren't alone. Since 2006, Chicago has been awash in a sea of Detroit Tiger caps with the distinctive Old English D. The barista at the nearby Caribou is from Royal Oak, my neighbor moved from Grand Rapids, my coworker grew up in Trenton, and on and on. Like me, they also wanted the economic and social opportunities offered by cities like Chicago.

So did I find the job of my dreams in Chicago? Nope, the job market is saturated with new lawyers. Did I find the social life I dreamed of? I suppose, but I've never been one to close down bars or attend the latest art shows.

What I did find was direction for my career, the experience of selling my car and using public transit, and the joy of running the lake path as the sun rose on a warm summer morning. Closer to my 30s, I enjoyed a lifestyle that eluded me in my 20s in the Detroit area.

I also met my wife, who chose to stay in Chicago instead of returning to Kansas after college.

But now, nearly three years later, I am moving back to Michigan. When I tell people, the normal response is "good for you," or "congratulations," but every once in a while I get negative feedback, and almost always from transplanted Michiganders. Many seem to feel guilty from years of parental pressure, and they try to rationalize their decision to move while simultaneously touting their love of Michigan."

In case anyone here didn't know, thats my story, more or less. The exception being that I went to law school for 3 years and promptly moved back to Michigan as opposed to attending law school in Michigan, then moving to Chicago for three years, and then moving back.

For the most part, Pappas's observations are right on. Chicago has tons of kids walking around wearing there olde english D hat and representing metro Detroit or Michigan like they are still living there...except they're not. I'll admit that I was one of those people, but with one difference. I knew that after my three years of law school were done in Chicago that I would be moving back to metro Detroit, no questions asked. And everyone knew it. I told anyone who would listen that this was just a pit stop on my journey and that while Chicago was great, Michigan was where I wanted to be.

When native Michiganders in Chicago told me where they were from I bluntly asked them if they wanted to move "home" with me. Usually their answer was exactly what Brian Pappas describes, "I love Michigan, but I'm not going back." Those were the words which I hated most.

Most of these people moved to Chicago, like Pappas wrote, to see "all that a successful city has to offer." I can't blame them for that. That's what I did and for as of now, for Detroit to succeed, experiencing what growing cities are like and how they operate, might be an integral part of turning metro Detroit into a growing and economically prosperous region once again. The problem is the response, "I'm not going back." That's what needs to change. How to fix that response, I don't know. Of course we need new industry. Of course we need new jobs. Of course we need mass transit. Of course we need more cooperation between the counties and cities.

That doesn't really answer the question though. And I don't know the answer except that every one of us must do our part to revitalize this region. Whether it be with positive thinking, entrepreneurial ideas, promotion of our area, or cooperation with complete disregard for race, county, city, government lines, we have do everything we can to uplift our area, and take it one day at a time.

When asked why I wanted to move back to Michigan, by not only Chicagoans and transplanted Michiganders, but also Michiganders still living in the state, I told them that metro Detroit and the State of Michigan is a great place. Usually I got a sideways look of confusion, but it was to be expected. I told people, we have museums, sports, culture, restaurants, great suburbs, a fascinating city core, and a resilient population of individuals who have been through it all. We also have an unbelievable northern part to our state which rivals anywhere in the United States in terms of beauty, serenity, and natural wonder.

I explained to them that while Chicago might be nice and spotless and clean, not only does Detroit have soul, but we have A soul that has gone through the great times and the bad to emerge as complicated and different. We can be optimistic and negative, cocky and insecure, prosperous and self-defeating, and compassionate and downright rude. To tell you the truth, I couldn't find that in Chicago.

So, this is my call to all former Michiganders living in cities around the country. Take advantage of your time in those cities. Do your due diligence. Learn everything that you can and bring that knowledge back to Michigan. Michigan is your home and you have the opportunity to do something great. I'll hold down metro Detroit with the 4.5 million other great residents for the time being. Those that are here will continue moving this state in the right direction. When you are ready to move back, we'll be here and we'll welcome you with open arms.

You can see Brian Pappas's local comment here. Write him an email or letter and let him know how impressed you are with his comment in care of the Free Press Editorial Page, 615 W. Lafayette, Detroit, MI 48226 or at

Detroit Army


Tim Chilcote said...

Fantastic - Amen.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% As someone who has no intention of leaving southeast michigan, i often get weird looks, but it's good to hear from like minded people. The biggest thing working against us is the negative perception ppl have about the area - from those outside the state and those from michigan. It's sort of a self-esteem problem. People matter to me more than place, but our generation is often taught that they need to go to the best, hippest, coolest place. It's important to appreciate the great things about where we're at. Anyway, glad to find your blog and connect with others who are into the Michigan/Detroit cause.

-Jessie Urban

Unknown said...

When deciding where to move, it's not always a simple question of where you want to be. There are monetary and other requirements for going to different areas for a few years before deciding to move back. Some people have student loans or other obligations for not moving back to Michigan immediately.

I'm sure that is not the case for all or even most people, but it is an important consideration for some, myself included. Therefore, I wouldn't always jump to conclusions when people leave the state after school or don't always come back immediately.

Anonymous said...

I posted a comment several weeks ago about a Florida native making an unusual move from Chicago to metro-Detroit. The move was welcomed with unbridled enthusiasm and hoped to spur others to follow. Sadly the young man's Detroit journey is ending due to the concerns Aaron mentions above. After several promising jobs failed to put money in his bank account, he is being forced to move back home where he can make a name and a living for himself.

Detroit and Michigan have a tremendous amount to offer in terms of lifestyle. The subject of the comment has only great things to say about his weekends, social life and time spent living in our region. However, there is no denying that the financial downturn is not allowing those who want to move here, and those who want to return, from joining the DetroitArmy.