A Stranger In Your Own Home

Durham is different. No one would argue that. It's changed, for better and for worse.

The Friday after I got back from Amherst, Eliza and I took a brief walk through downtown. I'd only been back a few days, still recouping from the time away. As we walked, a feeling of unfamiliarity came over us. The place we once knew to be our own was being overrun by strangers.

"Who are these people?"

"What are their motivations?"

Living in Amherst for two months changed my perspective. More specifically, it forced me to understand that as much as I loved this city, it didn't need me and perhaps I didn't need it either.

Once upon a time, I dreamed my entire existence being lived out in Durham. I was born here, I grew up here, went to school here, college here, worked here. Through all of that, my story and Durham's became intertwined in my head. Neither one would go on without the other.

Now, with every passing day, we grow further apart.

This is what most of us wanted. When Durham was the elephant graveyard beyond what the light touches, no one wanted to come here. For those that were here, we were content. We had our sanctuary. A blank canvas to paint how we saw fit. Growth helped us get more paint and a bigger canvas, but it also meant more artists, some of whom didn't share our creative vision for what this city could become.

So here we are, at a crossroads, with little hope to return to the quaint small neighborhood we once were. Change is the only constant in this world. Fighting against it would be foolish. But we're a protective bunch. It's hard for us to give up on the dream we once had for Durham, for ourselves. These strangers that walk the streets at night have come from far and wide to be part of the Durham experiment but we are reluctant to open our hearts to them. Can you blame us?

After spending an evening in the company of friends at Motorco, my feeling of resentment returned. Not a soul at the bar looked familiar to me, not even the bartenders. When I first started going to Motorco, there was no one else but the bartenders. I'm sure the owners preferred it be different but I enjoyed having my peaceful refuge.

It was selfish of me to ever think that this town would be built in my image. No one should wield that much control. What I want for Durham isn't everything that should ever exist in Durham. Problem is, if we don't fight for our piece of the pie, someone else will eat it.

Maybe they deserve it.

You can meet a lot of people working behind the counter of a retail store conveniently located next to the city's visitor's center. I did.

Many of those same people, the "strangers" who I just met, have become friends and acquaintances of mine. Everyday, they work to make Durham a better place. I know because I've talked to them about it.

"Who are you?"

"What are your motivations?"

Turns out, their motivation are eerily similar to mine. That's why they moved here to begin with.

Durham is my home. Whether I stay, it's special to me. The more people I meet, the more I come to understand that it's special to others as well, newcomers and long-time residents alike. Who am I to say if their claims on Durham are valid or deserve more merit than my own?

Come one, come all. Durham is lucky to have you.