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Where are all the 20-somethings?

January 30, 2011

I'll be honest. I never envisioned myself living in Ishpeming.

Moving away from my parents house in Marquette, I figured in my vague post-college plans, was a probability because that's what you're supposed to do when you "grow up," but I didn't have a destination in mind.

I was actually in the middle of filling out a Peace Corps application when I was offered the job as the reporter for the Ishpeming bureau, and I figured, given the economy, I'd better take what was offered. The fact that it was a job in the field I went to school for helped, too.

Despite having lived in Marquette for over 10 years, I'd only ever been to Ishpeming once or twice. Even though I'm a half hour drive from my hometown, Ishpeming and Negaunee are entirely different communities from Marquette and setting up life here was an experience.

They say when you're in a new place you'll feel more at ease if you're able to make a mental map of your surroundings. Luckily Ishpeming's a fairly compact community, so it didn't take that long to figure out what's near Lake Bancroft or where the Eighth Edition is (the neighborhood north of U.S. 41, if anyone's wondering).

As a reporter, my mental map includes where to find people who can tell me what I need to know like the mayor or the city manager or the head of the Downtown Development Authority. The schools are obviously the place to find people under the age of 19, business owners can usually be found at their businesses. If you know where to look, you can track down just about anyone.

That is until you are looking for people in their 20s. There just don't seem to be too many of us in the west end of the county here.

When you spend the majority of your life in school, surrounded by other people your age, it's easy to get used to outnumbering people older than you at least 20-1. If you turn to the person sitting next to you, you'll probably have something in common.

While I'm not sure it would have made an impression if someone had told me that I wasn't going to be constantly surrounded by people for the most part just like me for the rest of my life, being in the age minority takes a bit of getting used to.

But I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.

As much as going to college is supposed to help you prepare for stepping into the real world, it's still an artificial environment. A university, while a completely necessary and useful tool, is pretty much the only place you'll find so many young people living or at least spending the majority of their day together.

If you happen to have a non-traditional, older student in your class, they're immediately seen as different because they don't dress, look or sometimes work like your typical college kid. Although I never saw anyone in my college classes intentionally shun an older student, you often can't help noticing the difference.

And now I find myself on the other side of the age equation, also not a bad thing.

I think the important thing when faced with a new situation, a new town, a new job or whatever is to work to find your place. And that just takes time.

So here I am, finding my way around Ishpeming, trying new places to buy groceries, new routes to get where I need to go and new things to do with my free time. And I have to say, Ishpeming's an interesting place.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is



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