I have wrestled with this blog post for about a month. I had the idea as far back as March to do a reflection post on my opportunity in Michigan, but I needed a particular approach. In mid-May, I decided to see what I could come up with. So, I sat down one night after work, cracked open a beer, and got started. My fingers froze over the keyboard. I stared blankly at the screen for five minutes. I had no idea how to approach it. I didn’t want to do the same thing I did last year. I just didn’t have the energy to revisit those emotions. I finally got a slight idea about what to write that seemed positive. I ended up scrapping two hours and three beers’ worth of work and went to bed. After that, I kept thinking about how to go about this, and it finally dawned on me: I spent so much time and energy talking about what went wrong, but I finally have the mental capacity to talk about what went right. It’s finally time.
So, for those of you completely out of the loop, I’ll summarize briefly: at the recommendation of an old college friend, I got recruited for a canvassing position for a grassroots political campaign in Michigan about a week and a half before it started. Basically, I was going to be traveling from city to city within Michigan knocking doors collecting signatures for whatever cause it was. I took that to mean I was moving to Michigan, so I furiously packed my life into my car and headed off after saying goodbye to my friends and family (and burning a few bridges). The time in Michigan was turbulent, to say the least. The campaign ended up not working out, and I returned home not even a month later. There’s the only negative thing I’ll say. Now, I’m going to explain all of the positive things that came out of the trip. Fair warning, this post will get long with sentiment and pictures.
First and foremost, the best thing that came out of going to Michigan was… well, going to Michigan. Anyone who knows me knows that I am very much a home-body. I’ve never really traveled out of the South. Furthest west I have ever gone was New Orleans for a mission trip in high school, furthest north is when I lived in North Carolina (with the exception of my trip to New York after graduating college), and furthest South was Tampa, Florida. There was an obscure time when I flew with my mom to Kansas to see her best friend when I was four, but I have no memory of it so it doesn’t count. I live in Georgia and I’ve visited Savannah so that’s about as east as you can get in the States. For the first time in my life, I got to go on an adventure by myself. It was scary knowing I was going to be that far from my family because I had never been, but I knew something like this would come at some point.
I had friends and family come together to make the transition so smooth and easy. People were helping me sell some of my stuff, donating gas money, loaning their SUVs or trucks to help me take boxes upon boxes of stuff to Goodwill, one friend gave me a freaking cooler and bought me groceries, etc. It really showed me how excited and supportive my network of people really were (and still are).
The drive to Michigan, while it was long and tedious, was amazing. I downloaded hours’ worth of podcasts to listen to so I wouldn’t be too bored. I left from Cullowhee and my beautiful Blue Ridge mountains after visiting a good friend, drove through the gorge in Tennessee, cut through Kentucky, through Ohio, to the very top of the state of Michigan, in Mackinaw City. Overall, my trip took about 14 hours over the course of three days, starting in Atlanta saying goodbye to my friends and family down there. I’m just a person who loves long drives by myself, and the feeling of going somewhere brand new was all the more exhilarating.
I will try not to take up too much space talking about the view from our first hotel, so I’ll let pictures do the talking. We were right up there on the lake, and it was breathtaking. I was super sad when we had to move on to our next town.
I had probably the best pizza of my life in that first little town. There’s a restaurant on the strip called Nonna Lisa’s, and they made what was arguably the best bacon and tomato pizza I’ve ever eaten. It could be because it was towards the end of the day and I hadn’t really eaten on the drive so I was starving and ate it like an animal, but I still dream about that pizza to this day. I would drive to Mackinaw City just for that pizza again.
I got a taste of what it was like to travel for work. One week we stayed in one to two hotels, one week we were in three. I had always wanted to have a job that incorporated traveling, and I sure got it!
I tried new food and drink. Up in the north, there’s what’s called Big Boy, which is basically a very fancy Waffle House. We ate there pretty regularly, either after work or while doing some overtime work.
I finally got to try Tim Horton’s coffee, too! Hands down, best restaurant coffee I’ve ever had. Yes, even better than Chick-fil-A *gaaaaaaaasp* go ahead and ostracize me now!
I got to visit the Gerald Ford Presidential Library, which I’m fairly certain would have never happened if it hadn’t been for this campaign. A bunch of us spent our first day off exploring Ann Arbor since we were only about thirty minutes from it, and some of us went to the library together. I helped someone notch up an item on his bucket list: see every presidential library in the country. Happy to help, man!
I got to see Canada. ‘Nough said.
I got to meet all kinds of characters while knocking doors. Yes, most of the time we were ignored or doors were slammed in our faces (it comes with the job), but I actually met some really nice people throughout the days! They would offer me water bottles on the particularly hot days in Detroit, one woman poured me a cup of coffee while I gave her my spiel in exchange for a full house worth of signatures, some dudes gave me like four bottles of Gatorade, and I can’t even count the number of adorable dogs I got to pet (including two corgis). It was pretty nerve-wracking to ring that doorbell or knock on the door because you didn’t know who you were coming up against, but the nice ones really made it easy.
I honestly would not have gotten through the trip if it hadn’t have been for the wonderful friends I made. These people are so intelligent, creative, passionate, funny, and just plain fun to be around. It was like being in college again. It was pretty cool getting off of work and going to get food and then just chilling in the rooms with some beer almost every night. Libertarians really know how to party! After the campaign, most of them went back to school or to work their dream jobs, some in their home state, and one kid went on to actually get a job on the Hill in Washington, D.C.! I still talk to these people fairly regularly, so this campaign gave me some really cool friends and acquaintances all across the country so I have people to visit if I ever travel again.
I finally got a tan! I’ve always been the pasty white chick who burns quickly, so the fact that when I finally had some spending money and I went to buy myself some foundation I had to go down a shade was pretty exciting for me. Of course, once I went home it faded within the week and the foundation became useless but still!
Michigan makes some really good local beer! I got to try all sorts of new lagers and pale ales up there with the NUMEROUS parties that were thrown. One of the first things I missed after coming home was the beer. However, I stayed in Asheville for a few weeks so it wasn’t like there was just no beer around there.
I got to see what an incredible support system I have. As soon as I told my friends in Cullowhee, who were the last ones I had seen before leaving, that things didn’t work out and I had to come back, they all graciously opened up their homes to me over the course of a week to let me crash on their couches and recuperate. My family was equally supportive. Once I was finally feeling better, I returned home to Atlanta where I was lovingly greeted by family. Did I want to be back so soon? No. But my friends and family were still proud of me for going out and doing something none of them had done. I’m still proud of myself for that too.
If it hadn’t have been for things not working out in Michigan, I wouldn’t have met the love of my life. I spent so much time after coming back trying to get recruited onto other campaigns so I could get back out of Atlanta but nothing was working out or it was taking too long and I needed money. I was feeling really down about coming back that I didn’t even realize all of the good stuff that was coming my way not even a month and a half later when I would sign with a temp agency and they’d give me my first assignment (where we met). It taught me that there is always prosperity in failure.
Ultimately, yes, there was plenty of negativity surrounding the campaign and the fallout in the subsequent weeks, but I decided to leave that in the past and reflect on the good stuff that came out of the opportunity. To the friends I made up there who may be reading this, know that whatever you’ve gone on to do afterwards, I’m proud of you. To the friends and family who supported me going and coming back, thank you. To those of you who have never been far out of your comfort zone, I URGE you to take a step outside of it. Trust me, it’s scary, and even if things don’t work out for you, it can turn out to be a blessing in disguise. I hope that another opportunity similar to that comes up in my life again. I don’t want to be a home-body forever!