There’s a post on PolicyMic making the rounds among my Facebook friends called “This is America’s Most Apocalyptic, Violent City — And You’ve Probably Never Heard Of It” and it’s about my hometown, Flint, Mich.

I read it and didn’t think much of it. I take issue with the very premise. Flint is kind of famous for its endless failures and always makes one of the top spots in every variation of the “America’s Most Dangerous Cities” lists that seem to come out several times a year from various news sources. We also have a fairly famous movie enshrining Flint’s endless failures–Roger & Me, of course.

I’ve rarely encountered people in the Midwest who’ve never heard of Flint, even if everything they’ve heard is bad (and it usually is).

The article I linked above made the rounds on Facebook as anything about Flint does among the locals and those of us who grew up there. And it sparked a lot of “but what about the resurgence” talk and a few people even made lists of their own, counting down their favorite things about the city.

I was struck by the simplicity of the lists, because they were the kinds of things anyone would say about a place they lived and liked and the lists basically boiled down to: I love some of the people here and I have a favorite restaurant and also there’s a lovely cultural scene (that is really a sub-culture as I know just as many people who don’t visit any of the city’s cultural amenities as I do those who do).

However, because we’re talking about Flint, there were a few things people liked about the city that sent a shiver up my spine and reminded me that I’m glad I left. Someone posted that they liked how “tough” Flint is, how it sharpens people because it’s a hard city to thrive in.

My husband and I have long-joked about the idea that Flint is “tough”, but it’s an aspect of life there that I don’t miss at all and, in fact, am very happy to not have to deal with anymore. Tough conditions harden people, make them distrustful, fearful, and angry. And the longer I’m away from the Flint the less hard I am, and the more grateful I am for the opportunities I have to be soft and vulnerable. Vulnerability is a skill I’m still learning to enjoy.

This is a very silly example but this past month my husband built a fun piece of “yard art”–a perfect replica of Snoopy’s Dog House from A Charlie Brown Christmas–and it includes items that could easily be stolen. And I wondered what, if anything, would be snatched from the dog house from our yard in suburban Chicago. So far, nothing has been stolen. Not even the silly First Prize ribbon we pinned to the side of it.

But when we went back to Flint for Christmas the topic of the dog house being stolen was brought up repeatedly. “You think it’ll be there when you get back?” “Anything missing from it yet?” Questions like that cropped up every time we talked about it with Flint-area friends and relatives.

When we got home? Everything was still there, even the First Prize pin. And I know it’s a small, silly thing–and much worse and more dangerous things are happening everywhere, all the time–but it’s the little things that remind me it’s a relief to not have to endlessly worry about battening down the hatches and securing what’s yours before somebody else takes it. The world doesn’t need to be as tough as it is in Flint and I’m glad that I don’t have to be anymore.

3 Comments on I Grew Up In Flint — and I’m Glad I Left

  1. Ironically, or not, we were just talking about this the other night with our kids and friends. We, too, are glad we left. I never felt like I fit in there, or could find a tribe. I know we didn’t live IN Flint, but my bff did, and we were there all the time. She and her husband have bought a place out in Lapeer and spend most of their time there now. Gunshots, vandalism and neighbor/friends that have fled. It is sad to me that it’s all become so dark and dismal, but, I’m glad we left. I wonder how I would have changed (further) had we stayed, and how my kids would look at things differently. Whenever I think of Flint, or we talk about it, I mention you… my edgy, Flint Friend. I’m glad you’re discovering vulnerability and a new way.. from what I’ve seen, it looks good on you. ;-)

    • I learned a lot in Flint and had a many, many great times with friends and family. I don’t hate it there but I always felt that there was a different (probably better) way to live.

  2. Flint is hard to understand unless you have lived there, a visit is nothing, living there is required. Trying to make a life there, allowing the levels of expectation drop incrementally until a minute success is heralded as triumph. That is what’s required to really understand flint.

    If you were born there understanding flint requires you leave for someplace better. As time passes the the absurdity of what was once acceptable is absurd and the tempering from the hard place falls away. It’s nice to be nice in a nice place. It’s nice to not be suspicious at all times. It’s nice to not fear the theft of lawn ornamentation.

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