this picture was taken a little over 7 years ago. it was taken in maryland, outside of the house i grew up in, on the morning we were leaving to move to detroit. i was 24, patrick was 26, we had only been dating for 10 months, and we had quit smoking 4 months previously, after 10 years of the habit. we had hardly any money, knew one person in detroit that we had only met once and had housing set up that we had never seen. lots of people i meet ask me how patrick and i ended up in detroit and this is essentially the story i tell them.
we had both been living on the eastern shore of maryland, where i was born and raised, and patrick moved to at the tender age of 5. patrick was working on an organic farm, i was working as a graphic designer at a newspaper. we met in july of 2002, started dating in august, moved in together by november, quit smoking in february and decided to move to detroit in may. patrick was interested in working in urban ag and i wanted a change. we originally wanted to move to new york city, but after an interview and overview of the new york restoration project patrick wasn’t really into what they were doing, so detroit was the other option. we set out for a visit in late march. a visit that almost didn’t happen. the person who was setting up a tour for us never called to confirm we had a place to stay or we could have a tour, so we gave her until 9pm on the day before to call, otherwise we were going to take a road trip to asheville, nc. she called at 8:59pm. so we set out for detroit, got a whirlwind tour, stayed at the bogg’s center, drove through the city gaping at all the abandoned houses, then headed back to maryland. we decided not to talk about it on the ride home, and just take it all in, but at some point in ohio we decided we were moving. the wheel was set in motion and we just followed the path at that point, no freaking out, too much to do. quit jobs, tell parents, find housing, clean house, rent uhaul, pack up shit, have parties, spackle walls, clean more of house, leave. both of our parents came to help us pack, i remember patrick’s mom cleaning out our disgusting refrigerator, that sure is love. and then we set out for our new home. it was a really long u-haul ride, 12 hours and I-75 was closed downriver, so we were re-routed through the city. that could have been the end of our relationship, as stressful as it was, but i didn’t try to help get us there, as i am a directional amnesic. i do remember us eating almost an entire tub of peanut butter filled pretzels on our way there. we finally find our house, and it is huge!!! we just started giggling. for about a month before we left i was obsessing over a shower curtain. in situations of large-scale change my ocd gets the best of me and i worry endlessly over small details because my brain can’t cope with the big picture. so i was really worried about not having a shower curtain and talked about it endlessly, and when we got there the bathroom had a shower with doors, so there was no need for a curtain.
we came for a year to do americorps internships with the detroit agriculture network, and have now stayed for 7. that first year was hard, but really fun. patrick and i didn’t start making friends until we had been in the city for about 7 or 8 months so we spent a lot of time with each other. but i look back at those times and think of how much fun we had, and how much time we had to get to know each other and the city. we spent our days off exploring parts of the city or state we hadn’t been to. we took day trips to delray, flint, hamtramck, anywhere we could explore. i also think of how much i have changed and grown in the past seven years. i have become an adult and live a life that leaves a lingering smile on my face. i think being in detroit has made me realize that living your life is not about what you started with, where you come from, or how much money and material possessions you have but what you make of it. the past two years i have taken a step back from community and working on projects with others. i needed some time to rejuvenate myself after feeling burnt out and disillusioned. i started doing things out of obligation not love . i finally am starting to feel ready to jump in the deep end again, but this time armed with more knowledge and an open mind. i have seen the city change so much in the past seven years. after having the social forum here it has really made me reflect on all the wonderful work that is happening in this city and how much work there is still to do. i never thought that i would have been here this long. when we moved i expected my mom to be really emotional, and when she wasn’t i asked her why, she said she was just pretending i was going to college and that i would be back. so did i.
but 7 years later, i am 31, patrick is 33, we have been together for almost 8 years, he is working a job that he loves and challenges him all the time, i don’t make much money but i get to tell people i am a beekeeper and an artist, we have lots of friends we love, a great community, 7 years of living smoke free, and one nice looking rust bucket of a truck. all in all we are happy. who knows what the next seven years will hold, but hopefully they will be as much of an adventure as the past seven.