There is no escaping it. This topic keeps rearing its ugly head. Last night, we discussed it in book club. Are people meant to be in a certain place? You can find my take on the topic here. That question keeps haunting me. What if somehow I missed my chance to be wherever it is I am supposed to be?
Am I supposed to live in Omer the rest of my life? I wish there were a simple answer. The reality is that there isn’t. I love my family, I’ve always wanted to be a part of the canoe livery, and I enjoy spending my summers working there. Yet, do I have what I need? Frankly, the answer is no. There are few people my age around, and those who are around are in a different stage of life. With one notable exception, all are married and/or have families of their own. It would be nice to at least have the possibility of dating in my future.
What are my alternatives? None of them are good. Either I deal with the issues before me and continue on this path, or I start over someplace new. If I stay, a part of me will always be someplace else. If I go, I would miss my family and the canoe livery. At least in Omer I am needed and loved.
The truth is I am going nowhere. The canoe livery and the Rifle River itself are too much a part of who I am. I want to watch my niece and nephews grow up firsthand, and I want to be there for my parents as they get older. None of that means that there aren’t sacrifices and complications that come with that decision. None of it changes the love/hate relationship I have with Omer and Arenac County in general.
What saddens me is the reality of where I live. Over the last two decades, so many people left not only Arenac County, but Michigan as well. Many were left with no choice thanks to a one-state recession followed by the Great Recession. I graduated in 1999, and due to the fact that so many classmates moved out of state, I doubt we will ever have a true class reunion. Most Michigan State business students I graduated with in 2004 headed to Arizona or Texas, including me. No one seems to care. Few planned on helping their children create a life for themselves here during that time frame and the years that followed.
While we may be on the path to recovery, we are not there yet. What bothers me is a general aura of denial that stubbornly resists any change. Yes, I agree we need change, but we also need to keep what is working – and there are things that are working. Unfortunately, we do not support those things. So many people seem to want to change nothing or change everything at once. Neither approach will work, but no one seems to address this.
What about businesses? What are we doing to attract new ones? Absolutely nothing I can see. No, instead we keep piling on more unnecessary regulations that do nothing except add costs. Instead of making it easier for those just starting out to get started in a career, we make it next to impossible. Today, we still tell high school seniors that a four year college degree should be the norm when we are setting them up for tens of thousands of dollars of debt before they even start their career. It is wrong and needs to stop. We need to attract more businesses and encourage trades. What about entrepreneurship? Again, we do little to support those who wish to start their own business. New businesses and new growth are exactly what we need, but they cannot survive if not supported.
I am angry. I want to believe in my hometown and live here, but many times, it feels next to impossible. If it weren’t for my family, I would have never looked back. I am tired of feeling torn, and I am fed up with everything else about the area pushing me away.