It is time again for another guest blog. This week's guest blog is brought to you by Valarie Handy (who is an extremely involved TCYP, especially with our volunteer-related events). Take it away, Valarie!
I’m a small town girl. I’ve lived in Traverse City my whole life. I didn’t even move away for college. I landed a great job right out of high school that has allowed me to plant roots in my hometown and I couldn’t be happier about the decisions that have brought me to where I am today. My position with USDA Rural Development has provided me the opportunity to travel throughout the country and the world. In my travels near and far I’ve noticed that more and more people are beginning to know of our little city tucked away in the north woods. As I get more involved in the community through the Traverse City Young Professionals and other avenues I am meeting more and more people who have moved here from other places.
When I was younger I remember hearing comments about “those people” the “out-of-towners” who were moving to Traverse City. I always liked meeting new people and hearing about the places they came from, but quickly learned that not every local Traverse Citizen felt the same. I thought that our community was improving how we treat newcomers until I recently heard a story from a friend who is working as a paralegal at a local attorney’s office and moved here from Boston by way of Colorado and Detroit. He told me how he was at work one day talking to a Traverse City native about a crime that had just occurred in our community. It was something that would have been rather small in the cities he had lived in, but here it was all over the news on the way into work. His co-worker’s reaction to the crime itself was not the disturbing part of my friend’s story. It was her comment after discussing it a bit. She said something to the extent of “see this is what happens when you people move into our town.” My friend’s reaction was “us people from the east coast who wear blue blazers with gold buttons?”
I was appalled when I heard his story. I realized that since I enjoy finding out about where people come from and how they came to be in Traverse City so much I began to assume our whole town was full of locals who want to share this community with good people from all over the world. I was wrong. Whether my friend’s co-worker meant her comment as a joke or as an “every outsider but you” sort of statement is beyond the point. We live in a country built on the premise that we are a melting pot and that’s what we need to continue building ourselves into.
I work with municipalities all across Northern Michigan on building, maintaining and adding value to essential community facilities. Someone I met through work once told me that invisible fences are for dogs, not people. I completely agree with that notion. It shouldn’t matter which side of a City or Township line you live on or whether you have lived in Traverse City your whole life or not. A good idea is a good idea. We all live in this community together so it shouldn’t matter who an idea comes from as long as it makes the community better as a whole.
Since the aforementioned story from my friend was told I was accepted into and completed the Leadership Grand Traverse program offered through the Chamber. There, I was pleasantly surprised to find that even as a Traverse City native, I still had a lot to learn about our community. As I continue learning, I just want to point out that everyone comes from somewhere. Whether you were blessed to be born in a beautiful town like Traverse City or you’ve made your way here through trials and tribulations from all over the country or the world, I’m glad you made it here. I look forward to working with you in whatever aspect of the community drives you. Thanks for making Traverse City your home.