Detroit Refugee

As a kid growing up, I spent a lot of time daydreaming about my future.

At 5 years old I told anyone who would listen that I was going to be a movie star.

By 9, those plans had changed.

At 13 years old, I declared I was going to have at least 5 children.

By 16 that number changed to 0.

One part of my blueprint however, always stayed the same. After traveling the world I'd ultimately settle down in my hometown.

But what do you do when the place you planned your dreams around no longer exists?

What do you do when you're from Detroit?

If you're like me, you sit in a constant state of yearning.

I left for college in the '90s with every intention of moving back. I became a broadcast news reporter and paid my dues in small cities before landing a position in Seattle. I figured I'd spend a few years here before making a smooth landing into my hometown. "I'm Detroit bound!" I thought.

But a few years ago, after getting married and starting a family -- it hit me -- there is no way in good conscience I could move my children from their idyllic existence in Seattle, to the tough and decaying world of Detroit.

The hospital I was born in no longer exists.

My old high school is a pile of rubble.

River Rouge park, the place where I experienced my first kiss -- is now a dangerous landscape of overgrown brush. Most of the parks are.

The movie theater where I got my first job is now abandoned.

And that's not even the half of it.

Some of my family still lives there though; they refuse to leave the houses they spent their lives paying for. The home I grew up in (where my mom still lives) sits in between two abandoned houses. It got broken into recently. My mom said the police told her they could no longer afford to respond to burglaries.

The streets are eerily quiet.

Curiously there are lots of rabbits and other wildlife hanging around.

Maybe it's nature's way of turning the soil.

"You don't want to move back here," my friends who still live there say.

And yet the spirit of Detroit is in my DNA. There is not a day that goes by that I don't daydream about moving back. Sometimes feel a surge of inspiration and think, "Maybe it's my duty to be part of the effort to build the city back up?" Then I get angry. I feel like the city has also turned its back on me.

My grandparents moved to Detroit from the south in the 1930s, bought a home, raised a family, paid taxes and retired there. My parents did the same thing. I'm willing to continue the legacy, to hold up my end of the bargain... why aren't you Detroit?

Those are my feelings talking. I know the problems of my hometown are much deeper than that. It will take more than a few dedicated souls to bring life back into one of America's greatest treasures. Maybe the government can intervene, pumping money into it as if a natural disaster had happened. Maybe a few billionaires can build an industry there. I don't know.

So again I ask myself, what do you do when the place you yearn for no longer exists? I still haven't figured that one out yet.