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Opinion: I left Michigan for Los Angeles; here's why I moved back home

Christopher Cosmos  |  The Detroit News

I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Well, Lowell, Michigan, to be more precise, and I went to Lowell High School, where as soon as I graduated the precise and exact first thing I did was leave. I went to the University of Michigan, spent four more wonderful years in Ann Arbor, and when I graduated from college, the first thing I did — once again — was leave.

I was pursuing a career in entertainment, so I packed my car and drove west across the country in search of an elusive idea of future and happiness that I of course didn’t think of as elusive at the time. If I studied my life, as I think we all should, this single act that I kept repeating (leaving), would be the defining act of most of my years on this earth, or at least most of my early years.

And, of course, I'm not alone.

The lure of jobs, assumed increases in pleasure and less inconvenient weather takes both our youth and our wisdom to all corners of this country and the world, and most notably, further and further from where we began.

But what is the cost?

At what point do we stop thinking about where we could be, and start thinking about where we should be?

I lived in Los Angeles for eight years before recently moving home to Grand Rapids.Every time I make the drive, I stop at various gambling establishments along the way; it’s my own personalized casino tour of North America, and makes the route cost-effective as casinos have cheap rooms, and I can (hopefully) win my gas money back at the blackjack tables. 

What it also does is give the opportunity to meet fellow travelers.

In the spring of 2017, with my car packed full of all my worldly possessions, I came to the first stop on the eastward version of the tour, which is Mesquite, on the Nevada/Arizona border.

I checked in to my room, and then went down to the tables.

I picked one and sat down next to a few older gentlemen and showed the dealer my player’s card as I changed cash for chips. The guy next to me looked over.

“Where are you from?” he asked, thinking I must be local, I’m sure, because of the player’s card. 

I told him where I was from and what I was doing — moving from Los Angeles back home to Grand Rapids — and his eyes lit as he told me that he was from Michigan, too, and was on a golf trip to the desert with about thirty or forty other guys. He also was there looking for a place to move to, he told me.

I nodded, and watched as his eyes changed, as he then took in what I’d told him — really took it in — and specifically the moving part. He wanted to make sure he’d heard me right, and that I was moving from Los Angeles to Grand Rapids.

“Really?” he asked. “California to Michigan?”

“Yeah,” I nodded.

“Really?” he asked again, a different inflection and tone.

“Yeah,” I nodded again.

“Why?” he frowned, wrinkling his nose as if he couldn’t possibly understand the logic in it. I can’t remember what I said, but I said something, then went back to my cards and didn’t add anything further. But I have now, and since I’ve returned, this is what I’ve learned: As the world gets smaller and smaller, we should all consider making the distance between ourselves and those that we love smaller, too.

I want to be clear: My story isn’t a story about Michigan and California, or the differences between them.

My story is a story about home, because, really, what else is there?

And when I think of home now — three and a half years later — this is what I think of: I think of Sunday dinners in our family house. I think of long walks in the woods, and a golden dog running along a golden path.

I think of people on the street that know my name, and the special whiskey that Grandma keeps for when I visit for no reason at all.

I think of snow, and I think of fall, and I think of the colors and I think of how I never really noticed them until I left and then came back. I think of children growing the way that we grew.

I think of contributing and giving back to try to help make better the place that made me better. I think of families being families. I think of all that. And I think of the man that I sat next to at the card table in Mesquite, while I was on my way home, and I think of how he wanted to leave his home so badly, just like I once did.

If I could go back, I’d ask him the same question that he asked me. 


Christopher Cosmos is an author and Black List screenwriter from Grand Rapids, MI, whose debut novel, “Once We Were Here,” is now available from Arcade Publishing and more info can be found at or by following him on Twitter @XristosCosmos or Instagram @christophercosmos.