Bringing Back the Boomerangs

There's no denying that lots of people who grew up in Lansing, or who come here for college, end up leaving the area for jobs, lovers or warmer weather.

But that's only half the story. The other half is a group of folks affectionately referred to as Boomerangs. They're the ones who left but came back.

Once you start asking people around Lansing where they’re originally from (which is what Capital Gains did), you’ll discover that we have lots of Boomerangs.

Many left to go to an out-of-state college and then returned home after graduation. Others left for work, or to get a fresh perspective on the world outside of Michigan.

Which left us with another question: "Why do they come back?"

Turns out that some want to be close to family, others get jobs. And some just straight up love the Capital region.

Capital Gains asked three Boomerangs to talk about their experience, and here's what we found out.

Family Matters

The old, Midwestern family-values stereotype holds true. Several of our Boomerangs list family as the No. 1 reason for returning to the Lansing area.

After about six months in Washington, D.C., Jonathan Berman realized the benefits of being around his extended family.

“The drive home [to Michigan] was great. It felt great,” says Berman, an environmental quality analyst for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in Lansing. Berman grew up in Farmington Hills, Mich., and graduated from the University of Michigan.

“I came home, and my sister had a baby later that year. I thought, ‘This is good,’" says Berman. "I’m close enough to my family that my niece got to know me a lot more than if I had been in D.C.”

Fantasy author Jim C. Hines, whose latest novel “The Stepsister Scheme” was released in January, also came back for family. Hines grew up in Holt, just south of Lansing, and headed to Elko, Nevada, after finishing graduate school. Hines moved there for a job, but was back in Michigan about a year later.

“The job wasn't really working out for me," he says. "Too much stress for too little reward."

But the job situation wasn’t Hines' only reason for returning to Michigan. “I missed the social and family connections from back home,” he says.

Annie Patnaude, a senior public relations counselor for Publicom, a full service marketing communications firm in East Lansing, grew up near the Michigan-Indiana border. After attending college in Indiana, Patnaude spent five years in Washington, D.C. She boomeranged back in November 2008, landing in East Lansing.

Family wasn’t her only reason for coming back to Michigan, either. “I found a good job at Publicom that I felt wouldn’t be a step down for me,” she says about the move back.

Community Connection

 “I think that the Midwest is a much friendlier place,” says Patnaude, who was eager to find a job where she would be more involved with the local community.

“Everyone in D.C. is very busy with their careers, very busy with work and very busy with traveling," she says. "I think there is less time for people to interact on a person-to-person level. A lot of people there [in D.C.] are transplants—including me at the time—and it really doesn’t facilitate making lasting friendships. I sensed a lack of community throughout the metro D.C. area.”   

"I don’t know if I’ve ever been a big city person," says Berman. He says D.C. "felt very big, impersonal and kind of scary at times. I remember black helicopters flying over and just feeling like, 'This place is crazy.'”

Berman’s Lansing job differs from his job in Washington, D.C., and he agrees that the nation’s capital is faster paced than Michigan. “Things are slower" at his Michigan job, he says. "But that’s OK for me, because I was looking for something where I could just sink my teeth into the information. So it fit me much better.”  

Hines appreciates the conveniences of a smaller community. “It's awfully nice to be back in a state where I don't have to drive two hours to get to a real bookstore,” says the writer.

Patnaude has enjoyed Lansing’s nightlife as well, visiting local favorite hangouts such as The Knight Cap, Beggar’s Banquet and Mac’s Bar.

“I used to go to this club in D.C. called The Black Cat, and Mac’s reminds of that,” she says of the well-known Lansing music venue. “I enjoy the fact that there’s a lot of youth culture here."

Whatever the Weather

While Patnaude does sometimes miss Washington, D.C., she says she doesn’t miss it as much as she thought she would. And she certainly doesn’t miss the hot summers.

“The summers there are to Washingtonians what the winters here are to Michiganders," she says. "The summers are horrible. There’s no water except for the Potomac. And it’s actually illegal to swim in the Potomac.”  

Patnaude is happy to stay in Michigan and doesn’t plan on leaving.

“I had a passionate love affair with the city of Washington, D.C. for about five years, but it kind of cooled off. I wanted to back to something that was more ‘homey,’" she says. "To me, this was the next step. I was excited to make the move. The state of Michigan has a lot to offer—it has orchards, wineries and lakes. I was excited to get back to that.”

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Daniel J. Hogan is a blogger and freelance writer. He is currently working on an audio podcast of his novel, "The Magic of Eyri," which will be free to download here.  

Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.


Annie Patnaude

Jonathan Berman

Jim C. Hines

All Photographs © Dave Trumpie

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