How Detroit Became My Sexy City
In a 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated, Mitch Albom explained why he loves Detroit. He wrote: “Maybe because when our kids finish college and take that first job in some sexy faraway city and a year later we see them back home and we ask what happened, they say, ‘I missed my friends and family.' ” That's exactly what I did – although Chicago wasn't that far away, just sexy. After graduating from the University of Michigan, I craved a big city. Chicago was the closest with opportunities for journalism. Or so I thought.
I found a job rich in writing at HR Solutions, Inc., a management consulting firm downtown. One year into it, my family called. They said my older brother fell thirty feet out of a tree and was in a coma. The doctors said he would die. I rushed home, panicked. My brother survived. But, doctors warned he'd be unstable for at least a year and need company 24/7. My parents, who own 6 small businesses, rotated taking off work every other day. I hated being away. (More on Time.com: See 10 things to do in Detroit)
HR Solutions' CEO Kevin Sheridan understood my struggle. He said we'd find a way for me to work remotely and supported my move to Michigan. In my eyes, all significant journalistic opportunities disappeared as the U-Haul headed east. I cried the whole way back to Michigan.
Then, I found out about Assignment Detroit. I've always been attracted to places in need, and that's all I thought Detroit was. And to be able to write about it? It seemed perfect. Plus, I thought maybe somehow, if I could be involved I could find a way to help Detroit.
I learned from the Assignment Detroit blog that blogger Karen Dybis went to the University of Michigan. I found her email address and sent a note. “Could you please let me know if there is room in any area of your team for another member?” I asked, making sure to add a “Go Blue,” to show I hadn't lost that school spirit. I never expected a response. (More on Time.com: Read why Time Inc. is in Motown)
Eighteen hours later the chief of the project called. Assignment Detroit needed a part-time house manager and event planner. Three days later, I had the job. Five months later, I added reporting and blog management to my responsibilities. Assignment Detroit became a full-time job. I spent the first six months repeating, “Thank you, God” over and over on my 40-minute commutes to work. People stared at me at red lights. I smiled back, lips still moving.
Previously, I thought only those sexy, faraway cities could offer journalistic opportunities. Detroit gave me the best experience of my life. I worked alongside, and learned from, editors of FORTUNE, TIME and PEOPLE. I met more of Time Inc.'s executives, journalists and photographers than I can count, and I got one-on-one time with each of them. I learned how to manage a Web site, better my writing, report via video, edit video, produce photos, plan events and change a furnace filter. I worked on a story with the founding editor of PEOPLE. I shook hands with the Mayor. I met Aretha Franklin. Twice. I couldn't have met all of these people, or gained this experience, in one year working anywhere else – even Time Inc.'s offices in New York. (More on Time.com: See "10 Questions with Aretha Franklin")
I also learned Detroit. To my initial shock, there's more to the city than Greek Town and sports events. To my further initial shock, people actually live here. And they love it! I was charmed by King Books and found a second home in West Village. I discovered inspiration on Puritan Street and bought a “Detroit Lover” t-shirt from Avalon. I emerged as someone who argues with anyone I hear bashing Detroit and tries to free every month's first Thursday for Moth StorySLAMS. I became obsessed with Roast's brussels sprouts. Importantly, I realized that my hopes of “helping” Detroit were a bit backwards - Detroit gave me more help in this last year than I could have ever given it. And for that – all of the skills, knowledge and inspiration I gained through Assignment Detroit – I dub the city of Detroit my sexy city.
Although I'm heartbroken that the project must end, I know my sexy city will always be around. And I'm sure I'll visit – to hinder withdrawals. So any of you Detroiters who notice a car creeping by the old Time house occasionally, please don't be alarmed.