I was born and raised in Detroit. Most of my family has or is working for the automobile industry. I shared a room with my older brother in this tiny Redford house. The window on the far left was ours. Once he ripped the head off of my stuffed giraffe. A couple weeks later he lost his front adult tooth. These events were unrelated.
My younger sister and I would write one act plays, direct, set-build, produce and perform in front of an audience of stuffed animals.
We had to remove a second large tree in the yard because it contracted dutch elm disease. I was often picked on by the neighborhood kids and my mom was about to homeschool me when...
My family temporarily relocated to Greenville, Pennsylvania. My mom always said the move benefited me the most. Maybe that is why I'm still here and they are not. I remember the day we arrived. I felt as though we were on a camping trip. A few days later, on a bike ride around this new town with my family, I made a turn and started off on my own. I was lost for hours and when I finally made it back to our new home, I found the family all together, not realizing I was even gone.
I lived in the attic of our house on Plum Street for a total of 15 years.
In 2004 I moved to the small village of Neitersen, Germany to spend my senior year of high school as an exchange student. I attempted a youth exchange program earlier, but my mom "forgot" to mail in my application.
This time I applied for a scholarship without my parents knowing until I made it to the first round of interviews. I needed them to drive me to the interview in Pittsburgh.
I was soon in the air. Destination: Neitersen. Then the year abroad zoomed by like my host dad's Mercedes on the autobahn. It was a challenging experience. I value and cherish the great impact it has had on me as a person.
Why Germany? My motivation was partly attributed to discovering more about my Beck heritage. Then there was Schloss Sanssouci. When I was in 9th grade I saw a picture of this palace and determined that one day I would stand on the steps of the terrace. I have stood there twice now.
Most of my local peers set out to experience the world outside of Greenville. After returning from my stint as a student ambassador in Germany, I was ready for routine.
I found my routine in Greenville. I studied Fine Arts at the local liberal arts school, Thiel College, and graduated with my bachelor's degree in 2010. I was in a love-hate rollercoaster relationship with Greenville during my time at Thiel College, but by graduation, I was determined to make it work in this small community.
I partnered with a local non-profit ministry in developing a high-end gallery and studio called Sans MOCO. Three years later, after fundraising and countless volunteers helping turn the vision into a reality, it opened for business.
I worked as the Director for the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce and prioritized bringing the business community together around a unified vision. With the help of a committed board of directors, the Chamber became relevant again and set the example for the county.
As I was pouring my time and energy into a variety of community endeavors, my family was slowing taking turns reestablishing themselves in the Detroit area. My parents were the last to leave in 2015. I was content and happy in Greenville, independent of my family. But after the unexpected death of my father, my loyalty to the community over my family began to weigh heavily on my heart and mind.
The accompanying picture is a memory that stands out. I was wrestling with the idea of leaving for Detroit to be with family. Greenville's Downtown Main Street was closed and I used this opportunity to hold a special dinner with some of my favorite people. It was during this dinner in the street that I proclaimed official adoption of my Greenville family.
I moved 5 times within one year and I found myself back in Michigan by the beginning of 2016. I sat, just sat, for almost a month, which is the longest I have ever been still. I was mentally fried, physically tired, socially unemployed, and depressed as all get out.
One time, back in Greenville, I had this quintessential experience. A simple walk to work that perfectly sums up what my life in Greenville was like (at least in my mind). I was stopped three times during a routine walk to work. I was stopped by my mailman - who shouted across the street, "Good Morning Mr. Beck!", like a scene from Pleasantville. I made it another block before a car passing by stopped abruptly. It was a local realtor who stopped, handed me her business card, and asked that I put her on my email list. Then, just before I reached my destination, a young man stopped me on the sidewalk to ask if I was the guy who was just in the local paper for having been on a billboard in Times Square.
After 6 weeks I started to regain consciousness and decided it was time to open myself up to the impending battering of rejection that is looking for a job. In the mean time, I was making money at the local grocery store in the freezer section. On lunch breaks and days off I submitted cover letters and resumes, interviewed, and even made entry videos for fellowships. Rejected, rejected, rejected.
I needed to move into the actual city of Detroit. I was struggling with being 29 and living in my moms basement. I was also struggling with the suburbs. Aesthetically it was going to eat away at my soul. If I was going to stick around, I needed to actually be in the city. Surprisingly, my chances of finding that sense of community as described above seems much more capable in a neighborhood like Midtown, than it does in Westland. My goal became: GET OUT.
That time in the freezer was almost exclusively the reason I was meant to spend six long months in Michigan. There was so much silence during my job I was forced to actually meditate on all of this. Pray about all of this. I have had my share of struggles, but this was by far the most trying. It broke me emotionally, financially, spiritually. This is what it takes to learn important lessons, to grown, and to change.
Greenville 2017 - Present
Back to Greenville. This time is different though. I have the habit of being too serious. I came back to Greenville and I was serious about changing this little town. I say “yes” an awful lot, but when you are looking to get involved, “yes” is necessary.
I had this crazy notion that I could make the biggest impact in turning this community around by running for an elected position. I ran a successful campaign, walked away with more than double the votes as the next person. I was thankful that the community was confident in me. I was excited. I was ready. I was naïve.
It is a strange thing that I care some much for the town of Greenville. I am realizing more and more that growth and change in the community will not happen through the will of council, but through stronger relationships between neighbors and community members.
I resigned from council only 10 months into my 4 year term. I probably took things to personally. I was holding on to an enormous amount of stress that was becoming physically debilitating. Oh, what can be learned in the process. The achievement, the measure of success was never the position or title, but everything learned in the process.
And now onto the next thing to learn through process.