We are a species of discontent, rarely satisfied with what we have.
I am reminded of this fact every time someone says “I wish we had a (fill in the blank) here.”
Dismay rises in my heart when locals say they want some franchise or other to move into Traverse City. The wished-for arrival, they believe, would make life better. They’re not necessarily wrong. It’s just the attitude of discontent that dismays me.
I can almost understand that mindset in lifelong residents. They learn about a restaurant during a trip to a big city, for example, and would like a franchise to open locally.
But I have trouble understanding such feelings in residents who recently moved here from larger communities, where the majority of our influx originates.
Many folks move here because they crave our small-town atmosphere. They are charmed by mom-and-pop stores, local coffee shops, the full spectrum of services and products offered by local entrepreneurs. They move here at least in part because Traverse City and other northern Michigan communities are relatively insulated from the big-business-rules-all reality of metropolitan areas.
So I’m confused when recent transplants quickly become homesick for some of the very things they just escaped.
Moving to a new town is a big decision, a large commitment of effort, time, money and planning. Part of the decision-making process should include analysis of the costs and benefits of the move — in both monetary terms and livability terms. You’re going to miss some things after any move. You give up familiarity for discovery, habit for exploration. Some things might cost more than they did in the big city. Some things might not be available.
The trade-off is improved quality of life and a thriving local culture of community and business.
We celebrate entrepreneurship in Traverse City and across northwest Lower Michigan. We celebrate small business. We celebrate the unique.
So I am puzzled when someone moves to Traverse City, from Atlanta for example, then declares that what Traverse City really needs is a Long John Silver’s seafood franchise. If something is terribly important to your quality of life, why would you move to a community where it doesn’t exist?
I lived here when Long John Silver’s did business on South Airport Road. I ate there once. My life did not change, for better or for worse, when that restaurant closed.
More important are employment opportunities, schools, services for the elderly, law enforcement resources and the availability of medical care.
Every community has pros and cons. When considering a major change in your life, do some research, weigh your options, make your choice — and leave discontent behind. Many new residents in northwest Lower Michigan are doing exactly that — leaving discontent behind in the place they left.
What Traverse City really needs is beautiful countryside, great beaches, friendly neighbors and a wide selection of locally owned businesses happy to serve their customers.
It’s satisfying to say that we have all of those, right here in Traverse City.