My first year in Detroit

A lot happened over the last year. A lot of great, exciting things. Today marks one year from the day that I moved into my new home, the city of Detroit.

I started out in a 270 sq/ft studio apartment in a very eccentric building downtown called The Leland. I was severely overweight. I had no job and I was struggling to get by on unemployment. I did what I had to do to hustle and get by, while I volunteered my time trying to help a start-up get off the ground. My opportunities started to wear thin, and things were looking really grim. My car died and I had to rely only on my bike and our antiquated public transit system to get around. Then, I realized that my unemployment benefits were coming to an end.

During this time, I met new friends and built new relationships that would end up helping me get me out of my jam and onto a better life. I always had a spiritual bond with this city, one that I would feel deeply every time I left. Now that I was here I was experiencing the same joy that I had every time I’d come, only I never had to leave. Living at The Leland, I saw some messed up stuff, but it all just seemed to roll off my back and slip away. Nothing could get me down. This brought a lot of well-needed positivity into my life that manifested itself in a lot of good ways.

There's a little less behind these decks now.

I set a goal to lose some weight. I didn’t know how much I’d lose, but I knew that I didn’t want to be where I was at, which was about 100 pounds overweight. I also knew that I wanted to lose the weight as fast as I could, considering that my life seemed to be slipping away from me so fast, in many ways. Brian had told me that he had started on the Keto diet, and when he explained it to me from a scientific standpoint, it hit me that it was probably going to be my best shot at getting back to a normal life.

It worked, and after one year of living here I’ve lost approximately 65 pounds. I lost most of that weight during the 6 months I was on Keto, which I ended in June. Over the summer I’ve been drinking Kale smoothies, biking and generally staying active, which helped me lose an additional 10 pounds, and achieve my goal of finding a lifestyle that I can maintain.

In September of last year, I met Brian Mulloy at the afterglow, after he spoke at TEDxDetroit 2011. We stayed in touch and became friends. After a few months of bromance, he told me he was looking for a roommate and offered me a room for a price I could afford. I moved to Corktown with him in February, and I’ve been here ever since.

The place that I moved to in Corktown was a big step up from The Leland. My bathroom was no longer in the kitchen, and I now had hardwood floors, space for my DJ rig, a beautiful kitchen and a garage for my bikes. Eventually, Brian moved out after he bought the Trumbull Market, and I stayed here to become roommates with another great friend, Ms Natty Rocberry.

Through Brian, I met a guy named Alok who is a business analyst and an entrepreneur. Alok, Brian, and I are part of the Ribbon Farm hackerspace that is now located above the Trumbull Market. I am told that the building used to be a Maltese jazz nightclub, but now it is both a living and working space for some very creative-minded people.

Alok asked me one day about my background, and was curious how I could have the experience that I had and not be able to find a job. I had been under the impression that every time I applied for a job, I’d put my resume in with a stack of 500 other people, and they’d just throw out all the resumes without a college degree. He looked at me like I was crazy and told me that there is a big market for my skills, and to send him my resume.

“This is why you don’t have a job, your resume sucks.” He sent me back almost an entire new resume and told me that I was not hitting the right keywords. So I took the changes he made and went about revising it, then posted it on Monster and within 12 hours I was already scheduling my first interview.

Once the Stroh's Beer Factory, Now Brewery Park is the Crain Communications World Headquarters

Two weeks went by between the time my resume went online and the day I started my new job, working as a web developer for Crain’s Detroit Business. I admit, I was a bit skeptical about the place at first, and had misjudged it for being a conservative, stodgy place to work. Not only do I work with some of the most talented, intelligent and creative people in the city, they have put me into a working environment where my brain is being fed, and I am given all of the resources I need to thrive. I have honestly never gotten more fulfillment out of my work, and I’m very proud of the work our team has done.

Despite earning gainful employment, I’m still riding around on my bike, saving money and living car-free. I realize I won’t be able to go on forever like this, but I am enjoying the simplicity of it for the time being. For me, the challenge has been to use my brain and plan ahead better. I have had to figure out new ways to get groceries, go shopping, commute and have fun. Since I bike a minimum of 8 miles a day, I have stayed in shape and feel a lot better. I’m already making plans to figure out how I’m going to get through the winter.

Sunset Paddle at Belle Isle

I spent most of my summer at Belle Isle, swimming, stand-up paddle boarding, canoodling, exploring, eating and drinking. Every time I went, I tried something new, everything from the nature zoo to the aquarium, from Hipster Beach to the Yacht Club. I even manned a chase kayak for a paddle board race and made the entire 7.5 mile trip around the island.

Two of my favorite events during the summer were both biking related. The first was the Detroit Historical Bike Tour that I organized during Icrontic’s summer Expo event. About 10 of us rented bikes at Wheelhouse, and I hired my friend Amy Bragg, a real Detroit historian and author, to guide our tour. She gave us a brilliant perspective on some of the hidden parts of Detroit history, and took us through some of the places most people don’t get to see—like Elmwood Cemetery, the only place in Detroit that hasn’t been excavated or landscaped, and Gabriel Richard Park, which is dedicated to one of the most important people in Detroit history.

Biking for a Cause

The second bicycle tour was a charity event that took me 35 miles around the entire city of Detroit. The ride started in Ferndale, went down through Hamtramck, to the riverfront, through Corktown and Mexicantown, up to Midtown, through Palmer Park, and then ended again in Ferndale. It was a beautiful day and even I got to see some parts of the city that I’d never seen before.

There was also the bike-in theater at Woodbridge Community Gardens. Critical Mass is always a good time too. I had more fun on the back of my bike this year than I ever have inside a car. I met a lot of great people, who are all doing great things here. I’m very happy, and I’m surrounded by positive people, who are hustling harder for their love of the city.

It's Not Just a T-Shirt

Moving to Detroit is the best thing that ever happened to me in my entire life. I’m convinced that anyone who comes into this city with a positive mind-frame and a will to work hard, will see the same thing that I have seen over the past year. Not just a personal growth, but the results of a community that is growing together.

It all makes me think about what’s coming next. In the next 365 days I suppose I’ll probably break down and buy a car, do more epic shit and hopefully settle down with a nice woman. Everything is possible, and the best is yet to come.

6 thoughts on “My first year in Detroit

  1. A great story that I never am tired of hearing! Glad to have you a part of my life, a part of Detroit, and introducing me to some of these fantastic people who are a part of your life. I look forward to the greatness to come!
  2. Case Study: self-actualization in postmodern Detroit! Love it, expand it, flesh it out and tell it more! Thank You for sharing that. We actually paralleled quite a bit with the weight loss and time frames and inexplicably I too rode a 35 mile brike ride in Detroit this summer, except we essentially rode strait across from Ferndale to hipster beach on Belle Isle. My story differs with a struggle to sobriety and mental health, then a career based on those services for those who need it the most in Detroit.
    Hit me up if you'd be interested in chatting. Again, Kudos, and Thanks!
  3. Norm is one of my all-time heroes, and reading stuff like this just cements it for me. Keep on keeping on, bruv. Massive love to you and the beautiful city that just won't take "no" for an answer.
  4. Whoa, just realized I'm in the background of that photo of you on the charity ride! Just shows you how small and awesome Detroit is! :)

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