Reluctant Endearments

Ah, Detroit.

Forgive me as I muse on a city where I am really only a newcomer.

(And really, at this moment I’m technically in Oakland County.)

I’m getting to know the city slowly. I’ve already loved the art museums, the old architecture, the jazz clubs, and the bookstores. It’s the stuff you come to visit. Pretty standard. But I’m also finding the other parts of the city. I’m still trying to figure it out.

The other day I stopped at my bank and headed south from 8 mile instead of heading north to where I live. Turning a corner gave way to new scenery. I’ve lived here for nine months now; I’m now used to the ramshackle homes, the proliferation of plywood storefronts, the industrial tool companies, the shady bars. But it was still startling to cruise through neighborhoods just minutes from my home where every other house was either boarded up, half burned-down, or had huge jagged pieces out of windows, doors, walls.

Driving through this scenery – at least in daylight – doesn’t scare me. What scares me is the feelings this city is inspiring in me. Not a desire to go back to farm fields, or to college towns, or to the overwhelmingly vast expanse of suburbia filled with overwhelmingly vast houses, vehicles, and a vast (and perhaps assumed) air of entitlement. The more I get to know Detroit the more I want to stay, and that’s scary to me in itself.

My experience of the city is like falling in love with the one you really don’t want to bring back home to meet mother. Detroit is needy and rough and rundown and doesn’t have great personal hygiene.Detroit swears like a sailor and puts its elbows on the table and shoots its children. Detroit is fucked up. The headlines make me want to strangle politicians, carry a knife, or cry. But not leave. Anymore. Yet.

Its the people who I am getting to know. More specifically, the children. That’s a much different picture than the politicians or the murderers who are in the paper. I get to see the younger faces. Almost all of my students are from Detroit; families who (quite understandably) didn’t want DPS or (more frighteningly) who DPS kicked out. I’m increasingly frustrated with the leadership at my school, but increasingly in love with my job. Even more so than I was in cushy Ann Arbor, where kids had enough food and teachers had enough supplies.

Instead of finding a job that I love because I want to be there, maybe I will end up finding a job where I want to be because I’ve fallen in love with it.

That sentence may not make sense.

I am hopefully getting called back for a second interview at a Detroit charter school. It’s unclear what will be happening this next year – even these next few weeks. I’m torn in a lot of directions. What I am telling myself most is don’t be compelled by fear.

And so on and so forth.


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