According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 population estimates, the city’s population increased by 1.7 percent in the two years between 2010 and 2012 alone. If that trend continues as 2013 goes on, the population of out-of-towners may continue to rise.
That might make people like me a rarity some day.
I was born and raised in Cleveland. After finishing high school, I chose to stay and attend Lee University. Though I spent part of my time in college studying in Washington, D.C., and taking trips to places like Germany and Austria, I still considered this place home. I graduated and now work for the newspaper I read as a little girl.
When I first moved into a university dorm and began to settle into college life, it seemed like my classmates who had moved here from out of town would always ask me the same question when I said I was from Cleveland.
The question, often said in a tone of voice that made it sound like a complaint, was this: “What is there to do here?”
It almost always got on my nerves, the implication that there was nothing to do here. After all, I had spent my entire life doing something with my time before I started college. During our high school years, some of my friends and I had shared the desire to leave what we thought was a small town, to explore our options elsewhere. But it was still our hometown at the end of the day.
Instead of showing my frustration to my bored college classmates, I would help them out by rattling off a list of places they could go. The museum downtown, the mall, the movie theater and various outdoor locations near the Ocoee River were all options.
Though, if someone were to ask me that same question today, my answer would be more than just a list of places to go. I might also ask them if they have thought of anything they would like to change in Cleveland as they have been exploring the area. My second answer to the question is not a list but a two-word suggestion: Help others.
It is better to spend time looking for a solution to a problem rather than complaining about it. Instead of bemoaning the lack of things to do, why not create more opportunities for yourself and others? If someone wants to change something for the better, then there is always something for them to do in this city. Investing time and energy into bettering a community can be what separates the locals from those who are just passing through.
The Corporation for National and Community Service lists several reasons why one should consider volunteering. Those reasons include getting to meet people from all walks of life, experiencing new things and being able to learn new skills while sharing your own. Those are in addition to the many other ways sharing your time could have a positive impact on those around you.
People who do not make an effort to get involved with a community can — understandably — become bored with it. However, getting involved in the lives of others and supporting causes you feel strongly about can make certain questions, like the one I mentioned earlier, seem like silly ones to ask. When you are determined to make a difference, you are never without something to do.
If you happen to be what many of my fellow Clevelanders refer to as a “transplant” and are wondering what there is to do here, I encourage you to think of ways you can leave your mark as you settle into the community. Donate your time and energy to a group that is working to promote a cause you support. If there is not one, find ways to help people by furthering said cause on your own. Your enthusiasm could be contagious. After all, this is “The City With Spirit.”
If you’re a Cleveland native finding yourself wondering what there is to do after all these years, I encourage you to get involved.
You — and the rest of the city — will be better for it.