I’m writing this while watching snow fall on a frozen lake. There’s a guy zooming around on a four-wheeler with a sled attached the back, and his two tiny children are sitting on it looking like fluffy bundles of hats and scarves.
After long breaks, there’s always an undeniable thrill in coming back to Ann Arbor. You see all your friends, eat Frank’s hash browns and can spot maize and blue everywhere. As a second semester senior, I’ve spent a lot of time anticipating that moment when I take Exit 172 back into Ann Arbor or arrive at the Ann Arbor Amtrak Station.
Yet just as much as I love returning to Ann Arbor, I often find myself needing to escape once I’m there. Maybe it’s because Ann Arbor comes with the stress of school, or maybe it’s because Ann Arbor is a town of mediums: busy enough to be in constant motion but still quiet at odd hours, large enough to discover your own favorite coffee shop or bar but small enough to eventually see someone you know there.
Usually, a trip to Meijer or Trader Joe’s is enough to cure Ann Arbor’s intensity when I first come back to campus. Though they’re just a few miles from campus, these grocery store trips offer me a moment of repose and break the bubble of Ann Arbor that’s simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting.
This Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, I ventured out even further, heading up north to my roommate’s lake house. The back of their house faces Long Lake, and my friends and I have spent hours staring out the window watching people ice fish, take their children sledding or attempt to do donuts with their snowmobiles (would not recommend). Everything here is in stark contrast to Ann Arbor, from the lack of drunk people screaming at 2 a.m. to the amount of unplowed snow I can see extending into the distance.
I realize I’m waxing poetic to something Michiganders already know: Northern Michigan is beautiful.
But, seeing Northern Michigan has made me think about my relationship with Ann Arbor. It’s not that I don’t love the city, because I truly do. It’s filled with a sense of community for me, whether through writing or school or yoga. It’s where I’ve made so many wonderful friends, (somewhat) learned how to cook and grew up from the freshman I once was.
For many of us, Ann Arbor is a temporary home away from home, a place to live as we learn how to be young adults. Though the future is always uncertain, many of us know these years will be the only ones we spend in Ann Arbor or even the state of Michigan.
And maybe that’s why I feel the overwhelming urge to leave Ann Arbor on occasion. I know the time I have left in the place I began to call my home is running out, so I walk up and down State Street thinking about how in a few months I will graduate and leave Ann Arbor. I’ll no longer walk past South Quad and get nostalgic or stroll into Frank’s for breakfast or run into three of my friends in Angell Hall on the way to class; being in Ann Arbor reminds me of that.
As bleak as that may sound, I’m still missing Ann Arbor right now, even while sitting in front of a massive window watching children sled on a frozen lake. Because I love Ann Arbor for being intense and thrilling and the perfect medium between a college town and a real city.
Also, how can you not love Frank’s hash browns?