Three years ago, I came to Big Rapids immediately after spending 13 months in Chicago.
I definitely appreciate the ability to leave my car wherever I want for as long as I want, that would be about $400 in towing and tickets in the windy city, as well as how cheap the parking tickets are. $15? Are you kidding? It can be up to $80 for a meter violation in Chicago! I am very bored with this place, and you should be too.
That first semester years ago, I was surprised to learn a number of my classmates had never even been out of the state before. That alarmed me, but I know I can chalk it up to luck. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel across the Atlantic several times. I’ve also been able to see much of our own country.
After living in a giant city and traveling the globe, I realized this: Places exist and as a free human being, you can go to them. No city or country is an exclusive club. You can go anywhere in the world. You can literally live anywhere you want.
Traveling can be expensive, but what are you learning here at Ferris? You should be learning how to make money. And what does money matter? It doesn’t matter much. It doesn’t equal happiness, that’s for sure. But it is a tool, a great tool; you can use it to make things happen. Things, for instance, like exploring the planet and finding your true place.
Most people I know at Ferris are content to stay in Michigan after graduation and for the rest of their lives. I totally get that; our families are here, we need working adults here to help the economy, and those lake shores are one of a kind. But feeling this way about your life plan is unacceptable if you’ve never been anywhere else. You’re just festering here, letting your standards drift down toward the bottom of the barrel with no idea of your true potential.
Have you ever felt like you act certain ways around certain groups of people? Do you have different groups of friends who are into different things, different vibes? I feel that way. There are some hipster designers that I hang out with in Grand Rapids. We talk about lo-fi Italian techno and bash poorly designed logos. Back home in Detroit, I see my old high school friends and we talk about sports and politics. I fit somewhere in the middle of these groups, and, while there are some exceptions, I don’t really know anybody who’s quite like me.
What a drab life, never knowing anybody who is quite like you. This summer I went to Providence, R.I., for an illustration conference, and I had my second big travel realization: Somewhere on the planet there are giant groups of people who are exactly like you.
You don’t actually have to posture around certain people to fit in. You can be yourself, and if you’re in the right geographical location, you can be surrounded by perfect matches–people who are not only like you, but people who inspire you to be even more than you are; people who are better than you; people you can learn from.
When I graduate this spring I’m going straight to New York City. That’s where my people are. That’s where I can make comics, illustrate, design and do it all while surrounded by the best cartoonists, illustrators and designers in the world. In short, my standards will skyrocket.
Where are your people? If you’ve seen the world and you’ve realized your people are here in Michigan, then be proud. Michigan is a great place to live. If you don’t know where your people are, your life literally depends on going to find them. Make money and then use it to shape your life.
Be honest with yourself about who you truly are, and then go find others like you. Chances are they aren’t here in Big Rapids.