I Am My City

March 27, 2013

The other day I was reminiscing about my city (this is a common occurrence for me. I am torn between a great love of Grand Rapids and a great love for travelling and trying the new. Some days, my love of Grand Rapids wins out.).  I started talking with a coworker about "home" and what does "home" mean. Is it ever fully possible to make another city your "home"? Or will your heart always have a tendency to draw you back to that first home, because it was there that you learned about yourself, shaped yourself and grew the most. In a way, going "home" is going back to yourself.
This led me to start thinking about how much where you grow up affects who you are. This is obvious on a continental and country level, but I challenge you to think even about the city level. Grand Rapids got in my heart and my blood and my bones and my soul and I couldn't be more blessed. Honestly. If you have to have a city that shapes who you are, count your lucky stars if it's Grand Rapids. From the city itself, I learned how to approach my life, interact with others and hold myself. Here are the ways my city and I are alike:

1. Young
While Grand Rapids has been around since the 1840s, it was only within the last 10 years that we earned our well-deserved spot of the No. 2 largest city in Michigan.

2. Religious
When you drive through the city, you will see office buildings, skyscrapers, art-deco glass buildings, hospitals, schools, clock towers...and steeples. We were founded with a church on every corner, usually one for each ethnic group that moved to Grand Rapids. Instead of destroying that part of our heritage, Grand Rapids built around it. Every building twists and turns and juts out in perfect geometry to allow these churches to continue existing. They are exquisite, and often overlooked. They are the heart beat of our city, and of our people. The city runs around them, but without them--it's people, and then the city, would suffocate.

I spy with my little eye one, two, three steeples...and this is just on one 5 second stretch of highway. I can think of at least 15 steeples off the top of my head that I saw on a regular basis driving through downtown.

3. Charitable
GR has consistently been ranked among the top 10 most philanthropic cities. We celebrate helping our own, and teach it to our children from an early age. Philanthropy is everywhere.

4. Adventurous
GR is always trying new things. New festivals, new markets, new community initiatives. We're a young city, and we use that to fuel our desire to try new things.

Lantern lighting as a city. Beautiful.
5. Growing
Like me, GR is growing. It has its hiccups, it has its moments, its debates, its wandering...but still it grows.

6. Quirky
GR is composed of a number of different "neighborhoods." East town, Heritage Hill, Downtown, Medical District, Finance District, Gaslight Village, Homeless Row, Ghetto. They're all these very distinct parts, with different people, businesses and restaurants marking them as their own. You can travel to one and get a gyro in the back of an Arabic convenience store that only sells imported Arabic foods, to a preppy, pretentious, Yacht Club neighborhood in ten minutes. There are silent lines. Distinct, but complete. Because at the end, we're all part of this great city. I think that this is similar to the way I am filled with quirks and juxtapositions. I'm smart, but funny. Love books, but also the Kardashians. Could be happy in the city, happy in the country. Introvert, extrovert. It goes on and on.

7. Unapologetic
But even with all its different neighborhoods, GR never apologizes. It never apologizes for putting homeless row behind the bankers. Or the chic bars and nightclubs right next to the churches. It never apologizes for being new and growing. It is what it is. And from that, I've learned to stand proud and be unapologetic (except when necessary, obvi) as well.

My city is vibrant, hopeful, charitable, eclectic and growing. And so am I.

  Simple Bliss  Helene in Between


  1. beautiful tribute to your city! thanks for linking up :)

  2. I love this. I've never been to GR but it sounds lovely.


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