Going Home

Like any good PR person, I had two blog posts written for today, a victory speech and a concession address. This, I’m pleased to announce, is the former. After a long, sometimes dismal summer in which pickiness over potential jobs led to a lot of painful waiting, my patience has paid off. I’m going home, back to Duluth to work a job whose description might as well have wandered out of a dream of mine from two years ago when I started my grad school odyssey. I’ll be working for a consultant on business and community development across northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. I try to be skeptical of things like destiny, but I’m still prone to strong hunches, and if there ever were such a tale of fate in my life, this was it.

It’s a move 20 years in the making: this very week in 1996, I first came to Duluth in a moving van. The story twists through long formative years and an unexpected two-year return, and culminates in one of the best interviews I’ve ever done, easy because it was so genuinely sincere. It took no act, no conscious airs, to convey how badly I wanted this, and how much I believed in my ability to do it, despite my relative inexperience. I don’t consider myself a great actor, but as a kid well-versed in Minnesota Nice and East Coast gentility and a natural introversion, deep expression can be rare. Here, it all came gushing forth.

I’ve had a number of guides in this trip back; some may be aware of their roles, others less so. First off, there are my parents, ever my supports, even if I’ve never properly expressed my gratitude to them. I think back to some of my Georgetown professors; one who opened my eyes to the full array of options before me, and one who told a moody senior who was scared to go home that, indeed, “Duluth needs people like you.” (I’m not sure if it does, but I’m glad to be of service to it.) There’s my grad school friend P., who, over beers at Acadia, made the comment that “I’m not sure that Minneapolis needs me,” a sentiment I wholeheartedly agreed with: while the Twin Cities need work, I think they are in good hands, and I’m in a position to make more of an impact back home, where I have easier access to levers that can make a difference, and which I still know far more intimately than anywhere on earth. If I have any ideals on how to perform public service, they come through rooting oneself in a community and understanding it from the bottom up, and I now get to do that. I have plenty of other friends to thank for their encouragement along the way, with special credit to a handful of old Duluth colleagues who went to bat for me over the past two weeks.

It is strange, I think, to be wedded to a city in the way I am to Duluth. Sure, I’ve built some contingencies, and try not to idolize earthly things, but the nagging call was always there. It flies in the face of some other forces in my life, and I try to view my attachment to a place with clear-eyed dispassion. I’m leaving behind a tight-knit network of good friends in Minneapolis, and I will miss them. A lot. (For those of you reading this, I’ll be down often, and you are all required to visit. Seriously.) Any good-bye, no matter how brief, makes me lament lost chances to go deeper with people I know in a place. I’m not sure what Duluth will be like for a 26-year-old single kid who is now out of excuses for tarrying and ready to find someone to share in, and make her own contributions to, a vision for the future. Beyond that, I’m going to need to find some partners in crime in a small city where it’s hard to keep secrets or stay in the shadows. And, of course, I will have to reacquaint myself with blankets of fog, vicious winds, driving on snow-covered hills, and the unspeakably gross time of year in Duluth that in other places is called “spring.”

I now have an adult life to put in order, and will face my share of challenges in doing so. On the one hand, my path appears routine: kid goes away for college, goes home, accepts solid job, settles down. On the other hand, it’s a bit countercultural for someone who had a ticket to some exotic position in Washington DC or some other major city, but chose not to board that train. Whatever it was that led me down this road, it has always felt natural, and I’m content with that much. There’s a lot of work to do, too. Duluth and some pockets of northeastern Minnesota are doing better now than they have been for most of my life, but that’s not true of the whole region that my work will now cover, and even the successes to date are only a basic foundation. It’s an exciting time to head back and begin anew on an effort to support a regional economy and the people who are its heart and soul.

To everyone who’s been a part of this journey, thank you: you’ve all fed in, often in ways you may not know. I’ve been blessed, and am more than ready to set out on the next journey, on to new heights. Let the work begin.


Cycling Southward

People who know me already know this, but I suppose an announcement for the broader blog following is in order, so here it is: one month from now, I’ll be headed south to Minneapolis, where I’ll spend the next two years in graduate school.

In an ideal world, I’d be back in Duluth in two years and settling into a career. Sadly, I don’t live in an ideal world and you don’t either, so who knows what will come of that plan. The number of things that can change in that time is impossible to imagine. But, no matter what, this is certainly not a definitive good-bye.

So, to business: how does this all affect my blogging?

The hockey coverage can obviously go on as usual from Minneapolis; I’ll try to avoid letting the dreaded Metro Bias leach into my writing. Duluth East heads south often enough that I should be able to see the Hounds with some regularity, and of course there are school breaks and such. After doing my undergraduate studies 1,000 miles away, Minneapolis practically seems next door. Duluth will never be more than a quick bus ride away. My thoughts are already starting to form about the coming season, so stay tuned.

The rambling on culture and philosophy will likely take a hit, but I doubt it will go away, either. I’m in this for the long haul, and I keep my word. I never stop thinking about that stuff, and it can prove a pleasant break from obsessing about other stuff, so long as I don’t get too caught up in that, either. This blog has proven a great outlet on this front, and it will go on.

Coverage of Duluth political meetings will likely drop off, at least in its present format. I’ll definitely be watching from afar, may pay a visit or two when back in town, and could even make use of web broadcasts as time allows. There will definitely still be Duluth coverage; I just can’t commit to the consistency I’ve had over the past year and a half.

I will keep going right up until the end. That means one more meeting of both the city council and school board (both the week of August 18), and my departure will give me a good chance to reflect more broadly on what I’ve witnessed in all those meetings over the past year and a half. There will also be another post on our favorite new voting method, instant runoff (ranked-choice) voting, in the not-so-distant future, as I’ve had a crash course in it over the past few weeks.

This last month also offers an opportunity for lots of sappy Duluth posts and other such considerations of what this city means to me and where it’s going. This is my wheelhouse, so I’ll try to have some fun with it. These past two years back home certainly were not part of the plan when I left here for college six years ago, and while I came around and was happy to come back, I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were some moments of wavering faith. It is time to head back out, too: I’m a Duluth boy at heart, but I’ve always had both the blessing and the curse of being a bit more than that. As always, it’s a cycle, in and out, there and back again. I have a lot to say here, some general, some personal, some inextricably tangled up between the two. But, I’ll save that all for later—no need to ramble here. I’m on Park Point, it’s a beautiful night, I’ve got a wine bottle, and the beach is calling.