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Detroiters need to get over 'my Chicago'

By JACK WALSWORTH/ VN NEWS EDITOR
On February 11, 2015

I consider myself an upbeat and open-minded person.

But some things get under my skin far more than I’d like to admit and when they do, it’s not easy to block them out.

A conversation a couple weeks ago at my internship downtown was a prime example of this.

I had to take my weekly timesheet to the payroll office. Seeing that I was a new intern, one of the employees asked where I go to school.

I told her UDM and, like most people, she asked where in Metro Detroit I was from.

She wasn’t expecting the Chicago suburbs, to say the least.

“You’re from Chicago and you came to school here?” The emphasis on “here” was strong and the tone of genuine shock was evident.

This was not the first time someone has reacted this way when I say where I’m from. It won’t be the last either.

If there’s one thing I’ll never understand about people from this area, it’s their apparent obsession with Chicago.

I just don’t get it.

Maybe it’s because I’m not from here. Maybe it’s because I’ve only lived here for less than three years. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Chicago’s suburbs and have seen it in a different light than those who just go there for a weekend.

But nine times out of 10 when I say “I’m from Chicagoland” when I meet someone, the person’s eyes either light up or their eyebrows rise.

For me, it’s incredibly frustrating to be constantly greeted with this. It’s gotten to the point where I might as well say I’m from one of the Grosse Pointes, Troy or anywhere not Chicago.

And the funny thing is, it’s not even as if Chicago is faraway. A quick look at Google Maps will show only 283 miles between these two Midwestern cities.

That’s not Europe – or even California – distance. It’s literally five hours away, depending on traffic.

If Chicago is that great, why don’t people move there?

Why don’t more kids from Metro Detroit go to college there? Why live here in Detroit, a city that apparently isn’t good enough? 

Of the 121 guys I graduated from high school with, a majority of the ones who went away to a traditional university didn’t stick around Chicagoland.

Guys from my class went to schools in Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Boston, Atlanta, Milwaukee and St. Louis, just to name a few. Marmion grads are all over the place.

Do they get the same reaction when they tell people where they’re from?

I highly doubt it. 

And, look, I’m not saying that students from Metro Detroit don’t ever leave. I know a fair amount do.

I just don’t understand the mindset of being in love with a city and not living there, especially during your college years.

Part of why I choose UDM was because I wanted to live in Detroit and experience all that this city and the surrounding area offers.

And it’s been great.

Detroit offers things that Chicago never could. It’s the same thing when I go home.

Detroit is far from perfect, just like Chicago.

Maybe people here just don’t see the not-so-great aspects of Chicago, but as with any city, they are out there.

Taxes and cost of living are high. There is crime, believe it or not, and Chicago still gets pounded with snow every winter.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m proud of where I’m from and I’m proud of where I go to school. I love both cities and hold them both in high regard.

I just wish people wouldn’t question it.

Not all Detroiters have this mindset of putting Chicago on a pedestal.

I’ve met many people who wear this town on their sleeve. Their passion for Detroit is inspiring. 

I’ve met people who wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Detroit needs more people like that. This city needs people with energy and those who want to be here, not somewhere else.

Walsworth is VN news editor

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