A tweet during last week’s takeover got me thinking. I grew up in a farm town more than 40 minutes away from Akron. (It’s about an hour if you’re on the north side of the city.) When I graduated high school, I didn’t have any career goals. I had NO IDEA what I wanted to do. The only college visit I made was to The University of Akron. Maybe because it was the closest one?
UA was the only graduate school I applied to. Again – I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I got accepted, and I went. After a rough first year, I finally felt a connection to the school. And by default I felt a slight connection to Akron.
After graduating, I worked at the Soap Box Derby for a few years. The majority of my time there, I commuted from my hometown, sitting in the car for over 80 minutes every day. Until one day I had had it. I looked into apartments in Akron, found one I liked, and moved in.
But after a year of living in Akron with the ability to do whatever I wanted, I still didn’t feel deeply connected to the city. I felt enough of a sense of belonging that I didn’t yearn for more. I tried different coffee shops, hiked in different parks, went to an event or two. Not much. But rest assured, when a Clevelander tried to knock down Akron, I put it on the highest pedestal.
Then something changed. I quit my job. I said yes to more things during my “free” time while looking for a new job. I renewed my lease for a year, not knowing where I would work next. But somehow I knew that Akron had faith in me. And in one month I landed two positions at two of my favorite local organizations: Summit Metro Parks and Unbox Akron.
Now that I have a few jobs and some side gigs, I somehow find extra hours to explore Akron more and more. In a short amount of time, I’ve met a lot of cool, interesting, positive people. Every day I am blown away by what Akronites are doing. And they never ask where I came from. They accept me as I am.
During his week of taking over the Summit Peeks Twitter account, Roger Riddle tweeted a photo of the “Made in Akron” artwork in Highland Square. He said, “This sign means home. I wasn’t made in Akron, but when I walk past it, I feel a sense of neighborhood pride.”
Roger moved to Akron from Georgia less than a year ago. Hearing about the things he does in Akron, the people he is friends with, and the events he attends, you would think he was born here. Akron simply accepted him, no questions asked.
I’m not going to get all “hippie woo woo” and say moving to Akron can be a rebirth. (Although that’s what it feels like to me.) The city can be whatever you make it, whether you’ve lived here your whole life or moved here last week.
Some of us weren’t born in Akron – we were Made in Akron.
What is your “Made in Akron” story? I want to hear how being a part of the city has changed you, improved your life, or shown you something you weren’t expecting. Share in the comments below or send us a tweet.