Where I’m From.
I recently discovered this online store and maybe you have seen it: themittenstate.com
As I perused the pages of stylized representations of our uniquely shaped state on various t-shirts and other regalia, I realized that Michiganders, myself included, really do have a lot of pride for their state. The great metropoli of Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo; the most beautiful place in America and, arguably, the universe (Leelanau and the Sleeping Bear Dunes); the Great Lakes; the Thumb (my ‘up north’); the UP; and of course, all the little suburbs and rural towns in between.
At Kalamazoo College, we are fortunate enough to meet people from all over the country and the world. However, the number of students from Michigan still make up a majority. We are easy to spot. Jeans and flip flops; sunbathing when it is 60 degrees out; a shirt repping our preferred college sports team (if it’s not Kzoo, then it’s gotta be MSU!); our nasally mid-western accent; drinking pop, not soda; and always the hand. Ask any Michigander where they are from and we will not only tell you, we will be more than happy to show you. Holding up my hand in a quasi-salute, I quickly point to the soft spot, dead center of my palm. Lansing, the capital.
Don’t be offended! This isn’t some weird, indigenous secret hand shake, I just want to clearly represent where I am from and since my state is shaped conveniently like my out turned palm, you have the benefit of knowing exactly how far away I am from the nearest Great Lake - which is at most, only 75 miles.
But wait, I’m from Grand Ledge. Well, yeah, but I don’t want to confuse you. If you know the area, you will ask if I’m actually from Lansing, which is a no, but I grew up in the small rural suburb about 10 miles west of downtown. The same goes for my friends from Detroit - I only know one person that actually lives in the city of Detroit, the rest live in the ‘burbs. It’s just easier to give the general area. I have seen a lot of out-of-staters try to recreate their state’s shape with a body part, but the closest I’ve seen is California which uses the whole right arm.
Internationally, I do not think this symbol of state love is recognized and it might be hard to translate that I wasn’t born from my palm or live there. However, if I am forced to admit that I am from America a likely follow up would be to explain what state I am from. Michigan. Oh! Detroit?! No. (Hand comes out). Lansing and I go to school in Kalamazoo. Because as much as I have pride in my state, I have pride in the cities I inhabit and frequent.
If you know me, you know that I have never expressed a whole lot of pride in being an American .This stems from growing up under the Bush regime and having half a brain to realize that the United States may just be an over-glorfied grease stain on the pages of a world history book. (#sorrynotsorry) In all my angst about the country I live in, I am grateful for my citizenship, my freedom, and my United States passport. I hope to take this mindset abroad with me, so as to represent where I am from in a positive light, but not a filtered/illusioned one. That being said, I am proud to be a Michigander, to bleed green for Michigan State University, and to call Kalamazoo my home away from home. The winters are harsh and the summers are hot. The people are friendly and the pop is cold. That’s Pure Michigan.