Ann Arbor is much different than my hometown in the sense that there is a sort of elegance emitted from it. Everyone here is so focused, yet simultaneously immersed within their lives. I love the academic feel, as it fuels my own goals, but I also love that there is always something to do. Coming from a small town, it was the same old thing every day. You wake up, work, take a break for an hour and maybe go back to work, then sleep. Repeat. It’s quite monotonous; I knew that I wanted something different. While down here, there are plenty of festivals and live musicians, runs, night walks, book clubs, and so forth. It’s full of vibrant life.
That isn’t to say my hometown in the Upper Peninsula isn’t full of life – it has plenty. The beauty that the UP holds is unlike anything I have ever seen. However, it was time for a change not only for me personally but for my career. I don’t regret having left, although at points I do miss having a beach to relax on. It was a necessary change, as I wouldn’t have the ability to obtain the education or opportunities that I am getting here at the University if I would have stayed back.
Not only is the atmosphere, literally, different down here, but the cultural atmosphere is as well. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, no one back home ever protested or really stuck with what they believe. It’s the norm to hold your opinions aside and simply exist, but down here there is so much fire. It’s inspiring to see so many give their voices because they believe in the words they’re speaking. I grow every day as a person because of what I am working for.
Last year on my Spring Break trip I had gone to Chicago with the GEAR-UP crew and we spoke to middle schoolers from underserved schools about the importance of college. There was this one little boy who had an absolutely amazing dream, and while many other students didn’t feel as though they had anything to write down, he evidently did. So, I asked him if he’d like to share it in front of the class and he proceeded to stick his thumb in his mouth and shake his head ever so slightly. He was shy, much as I was at that age. I leaned over and whispered to him: “I think your dream is something others should hear. You could inspire them.”
I was so very proud of him when he stood up to say his dream. I can also say that I was completely crushed when a couple boys at a table nearby started to make fun of him. I stood up and calmly chastised them, but by then the boy had retreated back into his shell. He mumbled out his dream and ran back to his seat. The amount of guilt I felt for asking him to share was unbearable.
I walked over to him as someone else started to share their story and kneeled down. He was looking down at his shoes, his thumb back in his mouth.
“Hey, I think it was very brave of you to share your dream. It doesn’t matter what those boys over there thought, you’re going to do amazing things one day. Want to know why? Because I believe in you.”
I squeezed his shoulder and stood, but not before I saw the flicker of a smile on his face. At the end of the session, as we prepared to leave, I heard a loud voice tell me to wait and as I turned I felt the arms of a young boy wrap around my waist. Now, I don’t believe this boy had spoken more than a mumble the entire time, and I was shocked that he made it a point to hug me nonetheless yell my name.
He thanked me and continues to hug me, until I heard his muffled voice ask me for my autograph. I laughed and signed his notebook. I will never forget this moment.
My time spent here still brings tears to my eyes. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience such an eye-opening event if it weren’t for everything that the university has to offer, and I wouldn’t take it back for anything. This is what is different in Ann Arbor, and this is why I love it. Keep your eyes out, that young boy might just be here one day.