Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Michigan, my Michigan

After sixteen years, a place makes its way inside you.

You know its smells and sounds -- after a thunderstorm, downtown, at the grocery, in the middle of the night. You know your way around -- the side streets and back ways, the quickest routes across town, the best views, the best pizza.

You know the place like a lover. Its hidden tender spots. Its weaknesses. Its strengths. What it needs to thrive. How it often resists change in favor of a familiar old way.

Michigan has so much potential, but it is languishing. To make room for a new Michigan, a lot of people will have to let go of attachment to the old -- the old ways of doing business, education and employment.

Right now, I'm in the midst of moving and the process (when it isn't exhausting) is powerfully magical. You have a chance to let go of things and put bad memories behind you by discarding stuff. You must reconsider your attachments to your possessions. You are poised to receive surprises beyond your perception. You get to make room for newness. You can affirm that some things are truly behind you -- no need to grasp reminders of what seemed a golden age or better day. Truth is, great days are ahead if you make room for them.

Letting go, purging, opening, assessing what really is past, preparing for a new kind of future -- Michigan needs to do this. And economic development experts like Phil Power, Lou Glazer and others have been urging such an approach for several years.

In the absence of collective crisis, embracing statewide change seems a long shot. We can each bring it forth in our own lives, though, in small daily ways. Take a different route to work each day. Donate to charity everything you haven't used in six months. If you are shy, talk to every cashier you encounter and wish them well. Talk about the presidential election with your neighbors. Read a literary genre you think you dislike. If you don't have kids, volunteer at your local elementary school. Get comfortable doing things that are unfamiliar and get out of your comfort zone.

This daily practice can prepare you to make bigger change, the kind Michigan needs.

So get out and do some things you never imagined doing. Don't worry about getting messy and making mistakes. The worst mistake would be to keep things just as they are.