Emily was the ‘It’ girl of elementary school and I was the polar opposite. The words I’d use to describe my younger self are loud and desperate (I’m happy to say I would no longer use those descriptors). As ‘uncool’ as I was, Emily was always gracious and nice – no Mean Girl story here. I moved to a new school district after elementary school and we went our separate ways.
A perk of the internet is that you connect with people you wouldn’t expect to. We became Facebook friends and when I saw she was moving to Detroit I reached out. We met for coffee and had a great time – my 9 year old self would be geeked.
Emily’s story is pretty common in these parts. She grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and after college moved to Chicago for graduate school. She’s a Dance/Movement Therapist (DMT) and writes a blog about the profession and her experiences. DMT is non-traditional therapy that uses movement, the mind-body connection and creativity as an in road to the therapeutic process. It’s based on the idea that sometimes things are too difficult to talk about and movement is used to communicate in a non-verbal and deeper level. Dance/Movement Therapists work with everyone from children with autism to elders with dementia and ages in between.
Like most ‘New Detroiters’ Emily knows how to hustle. She works as a traditional in-home therapist with children with autism, she tends bar at Batch Brewery and applied for a grant to develop a DMT workshop for children in juvenile detention centers.
With all that going on, I’m grateful she found time to meet with me and discuss her experience in Detroit. We met at Anthology Coffee where she was blogging and surrounded by people she knew from working at Batch. [New city tip: Bartending is a great way to make money and get to know the community].
You and your husband recently moved to Detroit, what made you chose the city instead of the suburbs?
My husband is from Kentucky and when we moved to Michigan I wanted to be mindful of moving somewhere I hadn’t lived so it would be a new experience for me. I grew up in Livonia, I’d lived in Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor area so Detroit was new.
How did you pick your neighborhood?
I have a lot of friends in Detroit and they gave me a heads up about some neighborhoods to look at. We tried looking in Corktown but there was nothing available. We looked at West Village, Woodbridge and Midtown. For the money and the amount of space we got Woodbridge made the most sense and we liked the neighborhood. It’s close to Midtown and Corktown but it’s not in the hub of those places. Moving from Chicago to Detroit we wanted somewhere that was a little more quiet.
How’s the transition from Big Chicago to Big Little City Detroit?
You’re intuiting something for sure. It’s been hard – harder for me than my husband. I think he was pining for something a little more small and slow and I really liked the hub-bub of the big city. It’s been hard because the lack of public transit required me to get a car which I have mixed feelings about. There’s the small community vibe and I’m not used to constantly being seen. In Chicago there are so many people you’re almost over-saturated and there isn’t time to get to know everyone but here it’s a small community vibes. It was scary but I’m getting used to it.
What do you like about the Detroit scene?
It turns out I like the small community. It’s cool to walk into a place and know people and feel connected. I like the entrepreneurial spirit. Everybody’s doing cool things and awesome projects. It’s interesting to me because Detroit seems like the Wild Wild West, especially with my work in Dance/Movement Therapy. DMT is not new here but it’s not as popular so there’s a lot of opportunity which is amazing but it also feels scary at the same time. I’ve realized that I really have to advocate for it and if I want to make it happen I have to make it happen. That’s empowering, it feels empowering and I like that.
What’s on your Detroit bucket list?
What I’d truly like to do is create my own dance performance. I have an idea about creating a dance about moving back and identity and culture – I have this whole idea, so we’ll see.
One word to describe Detroit?
Grit. The spirit of the city is gritty – get your hands dirty we’re going to make this thing work and also the aesthetics sometimes are gritty.