News and analysis from The Center for Michigan •
©2015 Bridge Michigan. All Rights Reserved. • Join us online at

Original article URL:

Brunch with Bridge

Welcome to Brunch with Bridge!
Every Sunday, you'll find in this space one or more guest columns by interesting Michigan residents with something interesting to say about life in our state. We hope you'll find it a place to stop by regularly, read, and comment.

Been here and there, but Michigan is best for young and young at heart

Hi. I’m Natalie. I’m a self-employed writer, I’m 31, and, if you listen to the headlines, I don’t exist. Like a centaur or a yeti, the well-educated, career-driven, creative-class Millennial like myself is not found in the wild here in Michigan. Supposedly, we’ve all left or are desperately attempting to do so.

HERE TO STAY: Northern Michigan native Natalie Burg sees no reason for young people to leave a state brimming with potential. (Stickers are from (courtesy photo)

HERE TO STAY: Northern Michigan native Natalie Burg sees no reason for young people to leave a state brimming with potential. (Stickers are from (courtesy photo)

Surprise! Not only am I a Michigander by choice (seriously, my husband is a musician; we could literally be anywhere), I get offended when people ask why we’re “still here.” I try to break it down as simply as I can for them: I know Michigan’s challenges as well as anyone, but I love it here, and I know – not think, know – we’re on our way back.

But I get it. As a born and bred Up North girl, I know a thing or two about the impulse to positively correlate success and getting out of Dodge. I may adore my little hometown of Tawas, but the right opportunities for me honestly aren’t there. You know, like the opportunity to eat Indian food or the opportunity to see more than one movie in a theater per month. Growing up, there was no doubt in my mind that I would end up in “the city,” which, for those of you not from Northeast Michigan, is everything south of Bay City. (Isn’t that adorable? Don’t you want to find a Northerner and pinch our cheeks?).

There was never any doubt in my mind, however, that I would put down roots in state. I’ve traveled; I’ve lived overseas. What I’ve learned from those experiences, however, is that Michigan is really stinking awesome. Sometimes it takes getting away to realize what having 3,126 miles of shoreline really means, or just how insanely wonderful ArtPrize truly is. It’s also astounding how homogenous every other state is when you consider the cultural and demographic variety we have, from Grand Rapids to Marquette to Traverse City to Detroit.

And the truth is, I am just a Michigander. I play euchre and drink pop and am insulted when people buy foreign cars. I brag about craft beer and know everything about Thomas Dewey and Sanjay Gupta. I knew I was going to marry my husband on our first date when he slid his glasses down on his nose and made a Carl Levin joke. Michigan is who I am inside.

And here’s the other part: I actually believe in Michigan’s future. I’m no ideologue, either. I write about business and development, meaning I spend all day scouting stories and interviewing business owners and developers. Guess what? The stories are getting easier to find. The investments are growing. The entrepreneurial visions of so many are finally taking shape.

What’s even more meaningful for me is that my career is propelled forward by Michigan. Living in Ann Arbor, I’m a quick drive from four major media markets. And lucky me, I write about growth in the state with the most growth potential. As she writes in her book, “Lean In,Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg believes in choosing employers by their growth potential. Being self-employed, the market in which I work is my employer of sorts, and there couldn’t be a better one than Michigan.

That’s not just true for me. People are always telling my husband he should move to Nashville, as if he’s vying to be the next Taylor Swift. Instead, being close to all of those markets benefits him as well, as does living down the street from such famous venues as the Blind Pig and the Ark. Honestly, anyone who has questions about the viability of growing a music career in Michigan should direct them to Jack White, Aretha Franklin, Sufjan Stevens or Eminem. I mean, really. My mom grew up like one neighborhood over from Madonna.

It goes without saying that neither my husband nor I chose our careers for the job stability or retirement packages. I am a writer and he is a musician for two powerful reasons: our love for our craft and our belief in ourselves. We live in Michigan for the same reasons. We love it here, and we believe in The Mitten.

Natalie Burg has lived in six Michigan cities, but most recently put down stakes in Ann Arbor. Her book, “Swedish Lessons: A memoir of sects, love and indentured servitude” was released last year. She’s a little obsessed with trying new veggie- or fish-based twists on Eggs Benedict. The views and assertions of guest columnists do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan.

4 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. Rick Haglund

    Hey, Natalie–Welcome to Bridge! I grew up in Tawas, too. East Tawas, that is. :)

  2. Keith Orr

    Great article, Natalie. Though not a native, I’ve lived in the state since 1973. My first career of 20 years was as a classical musician. Everyone always assumed that meant heading to one coast or another…but here I am still…and enjoying a second career with a bookstore and bar/cafe. Speaking of which…

    Stop by the \aut\ BAR. We always amazing variations on Eggs Benedict every Sunday.

  3. Jenni Lee

    Thanks for this article! Smartly written! My husband and I are Michiganders by choice as well! I would never have married someone who doesn’t love this state as much as I do! I was a little freaked out when he told me we were moving to Detroit (grew up in Grand Rapids), but since going to school downtown I have come to know & love the city. I ache for its blight, rejoice in its victories, and get seriously offended when people bad-mouth this city.

    1. Brandon Holcomb

      We love Grand Rapids. Thinking of moving there at the end of this summer.

Leave your comment...

Your email address will not be published.

Currently on Bridge

Will we be better off if Proposal 1 passes? Former treasurer says yes

An Earth Day pitch: When you hang up the phone for good, toss it the right way

Michigan’s roads affect everyone, so a 'yes' vote on Proposal 1 makes sense

‘Diplomacy Begins Here’ conference aims to illuminate international relations

What NOT to post on Facebook: Jokes about prison rape, when you’re in charge of preventing prison rape

A program to give young offenders a second chance is sending many to prison

Similar accounts in suit over alleged teen prison rapes pose challenge to state's defense

‘New fish’ ‒ One teen inmate’s account of alleged sexual assault

Early learning summit in June could impact Michigan’s children

Money Smart Week: Be penny wise, and pound savvier

Plan B or no Plan B, here’s what happens if road proposal fails

The political tale behind the selling of Proposal 1

A Bridge primer: Untangling the pothole promise of Proposal 1

Who supports, and opposes, Proposal 1

Let's rebuild Michigan through its greatest asset: its water

Could a public boarding school model work in Detroit?

Coalition supporting Detroit schools a step in the city’s road back

Chasing fads? Today’s schools are struggling too much for that

For one Michigan legislative staffer, an hour or two in the spotlight

A cull is a kill, and it’s an overreaction to deer ‘problem’

Lack of college guidance keeps poor and rural students from applying

Those who can, do – and get their hands ‘dirty’ in the process

For one Detroit mom, a complicated path to employment

Detroit by the numbers – the truth about poverty

Michigan should require dental screening for all children entering kindergarten

Where in the world is the Center for Michigan?

After two years, hard to call ACA anything but a success

Bridge’s Academic State Champs emphasizes all the wrong measurements

A graying population poses challenges for Up North counties

Up North, isolation impedes health care for seniors

Enbridge oil pipes and the Straits of Mackinac: Too risky to ignore

Not bigger government, but better services when Community Health and Human Services merge

Two Michigans gaze across a widening gap

In northern counties, workers and business find each other lacking

Hidden poverty stalks a Pure Michigan setting

Postcard: How a git-’er-done spirit helps one rural school district

Postcard: When elk is for dinner

Postcard: Luxe life at Bay Harbor reflects changing economy

Postcard: A roof and a bed

Invest in non-partisan journalism.

Donate to The Center for Michigan. Find out why.