Settling in the Buckeye State

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I spent the last four years of my life thinking about where to go next. Born and raised in Canton, Ohio, I had this creeping feeling inside that I was meant for something more. A bigger city. Cool people to meet. Exciting creative opportunities to discover and chase.

My husband Phil and I talked about staying in Ohio and maybe moving to a bigger city like Columbus or Cincinatti. We made visits and tried to imagine ourselves living there. But the place that was really on my heart was Chicago. We had good friends who lived there, visited often, and it really just felt like home. So, we began making plans and set a deadline for a time when we would both be ready to look for new jobs and move away from our hometown.

Well, I began receiving opportunities to work from home, and Phil got a job offer from a local school district, so we had to reevaluate our plans. At the same time, I started making great new friends in the area, and the thought of moving away made me downright sad. I realized I really liked living in a tri-city area (Canton, Akron, Cleveland) with lots of variety in landscape, demographics, and communities. I liked living a bus ride away from Chicago and New York City, and most of all, I discovered that I actually really liked my hometown.

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The thought of settling for Canton was what really made me feel like a disappointment to myself. I didn’t want to give up on my dreams or one day look back at this period of my life with regret. But once I got past the fact that I wasn’t settling, I let myself fall in love with my little city in the Buckeye state. A community is what you make of it. I love working from coffee shops and meeting new people, discovering their passions, and in turn creating even more opportunities for my own life. It’s a small city with some of the benefits of a small town, but lots of opportunities that go along with a city. You’ve just got to get out and become a part of it all.

One of my biggest passions as a productive member of my community is to encourage others who feel like they’ve just settled for Canton, and really want to get out. I hate seeing people stuck in a rut where they live, just because they feel like life would be better somewhere else. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, take advantage of what you do have! Living with a positive outlook is important, and focusing that outlook on your community can cause a ripple affect that just might change your whole city for the better.

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O U T F I T   D E T A I L S :

  • Blouse: thrifted
  • Slacks: Thrifted
  • Hat: Hidden Pearl Vintage
  • Belt: Dillards ’09
  • Shoes: thrifted
  • Jacket: thrifted

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37 Responses

  1. kala says:

    Great post! While I would still love to move back to the west coast someday, I’m letting myself be happy and enjoy Minnesota while I’m here.

  2. Becky says:

    So reassuring. I stayed at home to study for my degree when so many of my friends were going afar (and many of the my friends now have come from afar). But everyday I am falling a little more in love with my hometown and the thought of moving to somewhere bigger not only scares, but saddens me. This is definitely a post which is food for thought. It’s also really nice to get to know you a little more :)

  3. zelina says:

    Great post doll! I like deep posts. you’re such a great and entertaining writer :)

  4. grace says:

    i love this post. I have run away from Ohio more times than I can count. And i always came back. But I do honestly believe that Columbus is not the place for me. I LOVE ohio though (probably why i keep going back), and am so glad to hear that you do too!
    Moving away will not make your life better and we should all try to be happy and productive wherever we want to call “home”.

  5. Tamara says:

    Great post Mandi!
    It can be challenging to balance between dreams and ‘settling’… which can actually mean just learning to see your current situation in a new and fresh way!
    I have/am faced similar dilemmas and think it’s an important topic… so thanks for sharing!!!
    Great outfit.. .as always!
    Tamara

  6. You look beautiful in this outfit and these are so gorgeous!!
    I don’t think I would be able to move very far from my hometown. I live literally 2 minutes from my hometown in both directions of my place now. Only 5 minutes from my actual home where I grew up (where my parents have lived since 1973). Wherever you go to, in the future. . .may you make each other your ultimate home. Building community however is really nice.

  7. Fenn says:

    There is a lot of this post to which I can relate. I always felt like I LOVED Ohio but I had to GET OUT. So I did. And I still do. But for me, it’s not because there is somewhere BETTER. Every time I’m somewhere else, I always want to come back. It’s like that Black Keys song, Ohio…”I just can’t get my fill of those hills over steel…no matter where I am, in this land, I feel alone if I’m not at home.”
    I very much feel that way. The thing about me is that I’m a gypsy, traveler, nomadic, explorer. When I get out of Ohio, it’s not because I’m searching for greener pastures, but because I need to go out and see things. It would be this way no matter where my hometown was.
    I have been in seven other countries and to 45 states, and I love this place the most. Cleveland is my favorite city in the entire world. NEOhio has such culture and diversity. Having lived in seven other states and Europe, I can say that we have a wealth of opportunities here that are easily taken for granted.
    I came back home about 18mos ago, thinking I would stay for a bit and then hit the road again. I haven’t left yet, because I keep falling in love with this place over and over and over.

  8. Joy says:

    I like to think that I have deep roots and want to “settle” in a place (not as in settle for choice) but in fact I might be more of a nomad. How to satisfy this strange wanderlust of mine?

  9. Phara says:

    Oh, love this. I can relate to that feeling. I’m still trying to figure everything out, thinking things are better in a bigger city, but actually I’m starting to like my hometown too. Guess, I’ll have to wait and see what happens. Positive thinking all the way! :)
    X

  10. Mandi says:

    I am LOVING all of these comments, guys! I should add, “settling” was sort of a play on words, because I don’t feel any more like I have settled (as in, just accepted second best) where I have settled (as in, where I’m living). It’s kind of funny, because I always say, even though I married young, I have NOT settled down. :)
    I have a bit of a nomad mentality too. I love to travel and experience new things. That’s another thing I love about living in Canton. It’s inexpensive to live here, which means I’m not working three jobs to keep up with rent, so I have extra money and time to travel around the U.S. and visit my friends who have, in fact, moved away from our beloved home town. And I get to experience their new home too. Win win!

  11. Chaucee says:

    I think I’m at the place in life that you’re describing you were when you were trying to decided whether or not to stay in your hometown. Ack, such a dilemma.

  12. I think it’s so important to be happy with where you are living. It can effect so many aspects of your life. It actually made me really happy to move away from my home town and find a new place where I felt like I belonged. But everyone is different so there’s no right or wrong way to find your happy place. :D
    XOXO

  13. Jill says:

    Love your thoughts here, Mandi – thanks for sharing them :) After college (in a very rural area), I moved back to my surburan Twin Cities roots. When the opportunity came for me to buy a condo (before the housing bubble burst), I *so* did not want to face the fact that what I could afford was strictly suburban – I longed to live in St. Paul proper. I ended up buying a condo in the neighboring 1st ring ‘burb of where I grew up and it’s been the best choice for me. I love it! Best of many worlds – close to major roads to bring me into SP or Mpls and I live right across the street from a nature center. Thank goodness I love it b/c I’m pretty upside down on my mortgage ;) It’s good for me now and that’s all the matters.

  14. Tracey says:

    That’s such a beautiful post, and one I think so many of us can identify with.
    Sometimes I think we want to escape for the sake of escaping, not for any real need to escape (if that makes sense) – it’s how I’ve felt in the past.
    :)

  15. Katie says:

    Wow! I feel like you have taken the words right out of my mouth – I feel exactly the same. And judging by the comments, I am not the only one! I’m so glad you shared, since this is something that I spend a lot of time thinking about…although I’m still bouncing in between the thoughts of “will I go somewhere next?” and “why would I ever leave here!”. At this moment though, I am spending time exploring (still!) where I’ve lived for the last 6 years because it’s my home and I want to be as happy as possible. And who doesn’t!?
    Whenever I think about this topic I always come back to one of my favorite quotes from “Winter” by Rick Bass.
    ?One old woman, whom everyone calls Grandma, has lived up here all her life. Eighty years in the Yaak. Think of all the things she has missed. But think of all the things she has seen that the rest of the world has missed. No one can get it all, no matter where they are.?
    I like to think about this quote – just to think that while I’m here where I am, I’ll experience all that I can…and stop worrying about what I might be missing out on elsewhere. When I picture the ‘Grandma’ he writes about, it isn’t a sad thing to me that she has spent her whole life in one place, because like he writes, “Think of all the things she has seen that the rest of the world has missed”. I imagine she must be amazing. Ah, I hope that makes sense!
    Anyway, sorry to get so wordy – but again, great post!
    And it even got me to come out of my shell and say hello :-)

  16. rose says:

    great post. we’re kinda doing the settling thing at the moment. it’s scary thinking “this is it” but then living here provides us with so many more opportunities to save, etc. we’re heading to the states in june for a holiday – can’t wait for a new adventure!

  17. Tamara says:

    beautifully written! i live in the same town i grew up in…and have never, ever, never regretted staying. i love that the library when i was little is now a favorite thrift store and that what was baker jim’s doughnut shop is now where my massage therapist is. i feel connected to this small little town…and i wouldn’t have it any other way. it was so wonderful to read what you wrote, and the comments. i love that others feel the same!

  18. Maria says:

    Great post. I’ve lived in quite a few cities in the UK and it’s always interesting coming back to my home town. I like it because I know it so well. I don’t have good memories of growing up here, so I don’t feel attatched to it in that sense, but I think it’s such a strong feeling when you know something well. And all the people who have moved here recently don’t know it’s history and haven’t seen the changes. I feel as if there are things only I know about this town and that makes me feel connected to it in some way.
    On the other hand, I love the feeling of a new place when you have total anonymity. You can do anything and be anyone because no-one knows you yet. And there’s a scary/lonely side to that of course!

  19. I love this post. I live in Aberdeen, Scotland; people here are always complaining that it’s not as pretty or as cool as Edinburgh and Glasgow. They’re right: it’s not. But it’s not far from either of them, has an increasingly interesting sub-culture and is where the majority of the people I care about live; it doesn’t have to be the most impressive city to be my home.

  20. emily keen says:

    This was a great post!! Funny enough, I’m coming to Akron from Virginia this weekend to visit some family and my husband and I already had the thought process that we should start imaging ourselves living around there. The cost of living in Virginia is terrible! We live in a great neighborhood, but it’s just so expensive and we could never be home owners…blah blah blah…
    So anywho, since I’ll be visiting there from Friday till Tuesday, what types of things do you suggest?

  21. Mandi says:

    @Emily:
    If you are 21, my suggestions might be different than if you are not. :) Here are my suggestions:
    1. Visit Highland Square (where West Market and Portage Path intersect. There are some great bars there for night, and during the day Angel Falls Coffee shop, Revival Vintage, Square Records, and other restaurants. If you are talking about living in the area, explore North Portage Path; there are some great apartment buildings around there, and north of the apartment buildings is America’s finest example of Tudor Architecture: Stan Hywet Hall. You could always take a tour of Stan Hywet too. It’s very cool.
    2. Visit Cuyahoga Falls (off of route 8 on Portage Trail or take Broadway from downtown Akron, which turns into State Road, and drive through the Valley and turn right onto Portage Trail.). At the Falls River Square District there are some great vintage shops that are open till around 5 every day except maybe not Sunday, and definitely not Monday. There is also a great thrift store on State Road near Graham Road, called The Village Discount Outlet.
    3. If you like indie music, and dancing, and are at least 21 years of age, you must go to Thursdays Lounge on Saturday night. It’s a bar on Exchange street right on the University of Akron’s campus (just slightly west and across the street from their stadium). Thursday night is their biggest night, but Saturdays are great too. People usually start trickling in around 11:00, but the party doesn’t usually get started till around midnight. They close up at 2:30 AM.
    If you are up to exploring even further, I would suggest driving up to Cleveland and hanging out in Tremont (just west and across the river from downtown). You can look it up online, if you need directions. There are some nice shops in the Tremont and Ohio City area (The Banyan Tree, Room Service) and if you want to visit, you must go on Sunday morning and have brunch at Lucky’s Cafe. AMAZING. There are also some nice bars and coffee shops in the area, and if you will be there in the evening, you should visit Happy Dog. It’s a bar/restaurant with live music that serves regular and veggie friendly hot dogs and stuff. Anyway, Cleveland is a whole ‘nother ball game, and besides Ohio City and Tremont, there is also Cleveland Heights (on Coventry and Euclid) to consider. The Grog shop has great live shows, around the corner is a Toy shop that is AMAZING and so old school. There is a photobooth inside too. :)
    And last, but NOT least (hehe) is Canton! If you will be here on Friday, come down to downtown Canton (from Akron, 77 South to Tuscararus Ave., turn left, and drive into downtown) because lots of fun stuff wil be going on. There are lots of art galleries that will be open. I suggest Anderson Creative that is run by my brother’s (and my old) neighbor who is a very awesome dude. I will be across the street and to the north a bit on Cleveland Ave selling vintage clothes at this old Copy/Fax building. You MUSt get a cup of coffee or tea at Muggswigz Coffee shop on 2nd St. N and Walnut. They have the best coffe I’ve ever had in my life. The owner meets all of the coffee farmers, selects the beans, and roasts them fresh daily at the shop in Canton. Also, late Friday night I will be at Georges bar close to 2nd St. N on Cleveland Ave. It’s a hole-in-the-wall type of bar where all of my friends hang out. If your husband likes football, he might also want to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. If you like antiques (and they have some vintage clothing), visit Avenue Antiques in Canton which is in the same block of building as Milk and Honey, which, if you aren’t vegan, you should grab some ice cream there. It’s so cute and amazing. Also, if you like ice cream, another cute Canton place is Taggarts Ice Cream Parlor.
    So, now you have lots of things to do in Canton, Akron, and Cleveland! haha
    I hope you have a terrific time and get out to explore!

  22. jadie says:

    it’s so good to hear someone else say this. there’s a chance we might be taking a job offer and moving soon and settling down for several years… it’s a great place, the job is amazing, our lives would be better on so many levels, but i’ve been struggling with feeling like it’s not good enough- like we need to hold out for something bigger. the thought of “settling” on anything other (especially for a job!) made me feel like i was giving in to adulthood and becoming one of “those” people i never wanted to be.
    but you know, the “bigger and better” isn’t always bigger and better. for a while our plan was to move to a city and take whatever jobs (PLURAL) we could find, find a tiny apartment, and just try to make ends meet. but would we really even be able to enjoy our city then? much less our lives? like you said, in smaller towns, you’re more likely to have extra money to travel and experience new things. and if you love your town, it really is the best of both worlds.
    opportunities are everywhere. cool people are everywhere. life is definitely what you make it, wherever you are.
    p.s. this is definitely the longest comment i’ve ever left!

  23. Danielle says:

    That blouse is soo lovely! Your thrifted finds are always amazing.

  24. emily says:

    hi im emily! iv been reading for a while.. but i dont think iv ever commented before! your little town seems so great with some really cool people. i live on long island, and i dont know if you have ever been here but it sucks! we dont have cool people or places to go, and i really wanna get out of here! luckily im a 45 min drive to nyc, but i would like to live there or maybe somewhere on the west coast one day. a more foreseeable future is in the new england area, i have a lot of friends there and its great for vintage! and still close to home. ahh, one day.. my boyfriend are just in the process of saving now!

  25. “a small city with some of the benefits of a small town, but lots of opportunities that go along with a city” – this is exactly how I feel about my new (16 months now) hometown of Bath! It’s so easy to sit at home on the internet and get jealous of other people’s homes/lives/whatever, but I have found on so many occasions already, that if I make the effort to go out and look at my beautiful little city, I am reminded of why I chose it in the first place. Stop and smell the roses, hey?

  26. chelsea says:

    as a fellow ohio girl, i lovelovelove this post. i’m from columbus, and most of my friends moved away to go to college and i chose to stay here for college. everyone has always said things about how they can’t believe i would stay and make snide comments about how i’ve never “gotten out.” i hate it. columbus is full of art and music and culture and it’s getting better all the time! i love my city and the little neighborhood i live in!

  27. Heather says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! What a wonderful way to look at it! I often am afraid that I am settling, especially since I moved back home after being gone for seven years, but the longer I stay the more I fall in love with my city.

  28. Patty says:

    I think it is quite lovely where you live!!

  29. Emma says:

    Great, thought-provoking post. I’m on the West Coast and can’t wait to get back to my Midwest that I love so much!!

  30. veronika says:

    i often feel the same way. i wasn’t born in philadelphia (about an hour away) but i’ve been in and around the city for 17 years now, and living in philadelphia for 5. i sometimes feel so stuck, like i should want to move someplace new (and i do sometimes, believe me); chicago has always been one of my dream cities, atlanta too. it’s very easy to get frustrated with philadelphia (the trash, noise, corruption, rampant dog-fighting rings) but i’ve just started really trying to participate in my community and improve where i live; simple things at first, just sweeping our block and planting flowers, but moving on to mentoring and joining in civic associations.
    ps – i would have loved to meet you when i was in ohio! my grandma lives outside of youngstown (in boardman) and we’re there at least once a year. my aunt lived in canton for the longest time before moving to maryland.

  31. Mallory G says:

    I go back and forth on moving from NE Ohio constantly…
    Sometimes I wonder if moving thirty minutes north to Canton would be a step in the right direction for me. Reading your comments to Emily has me pretty much convinced. Now to get the man on board…

  32. Colleen says:

    this is the best post ever! found your blog through a beautiful mess. i grew right down the road in bolivar – live in nashville now, but ohio will always have my heart.

  33. Margaret says:

    “Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, take advantage of what you do have!”
    I completely agree. I actually live in Cincinnati now (just moved here in Dec.), in Mariemont, which is a darling 1920s-ish suburb and surprisingly affordable. I was sort of iffy about moving here, as I grew up in Columbus, Ohio and Cinci gets a bad rep sometimes. But it’s been lovely so far, lots of art and culture and fun places to go. At one point in my life, I would have been horrified by the prospect of staying in Ohio – I was determined that I needed to live somewhere glamourous, like NYC or London. But then I realized how much there is to like about this state, if you only look for it.
    I also lived in a tiny town in central PA for several years and came to love it, when at first it felt very podunk-y. Sure, it didn’t have the shopping or museums of a big city, but there was plenty to keep me occupied, it was safe, inexpensive, etc. Lots of pluses, if you paid attention to them. :)

  34. Anne says:

    I wish I’d read that two years ago. It certainly would have made moving back to the smallish city of Rouen, France, a lot easier. Instead, I felt like I was stuck here indefinitely and I haven’t created the opportunities that I could have if I’d just embraced this place.
    Canton seems like a cute city. I always get that impression from reading your blog.

  35. katie says:

    this was so so lovely to read!! i love our tri-city region! as a very proud Clevelander, i can’t imagine living anywhere else! i can’t wait to get out and explore more of akron and canton, if you ever get a chance, please post about what we should check out when we visit YOUR charming city!!

  36. Liv Szari says:

    After I posted about how boring Canton was, my friends went nuts! They made me realize that it is a good place, and I am actually starting to like it more! Your blog definitely shows that its an amazing place to live! I mean, we have Muggz…the home of my favorite drink on earth, the Fuzzywig! So Canton can’t be all that bad after all ; )