June 19, 2001, I was born in High Wycombe, England. My dreams of being the sixth member of One Direction were squashed, however, when my family moved me to Grand Blanc, Michigan at just over three months old. Grand Blanc is a rather small town just a couple of minutes south of Flint. With a population of just over thirty thousand, and a non-existent downtown area, I learned pretty early on that community serves as a link to the outside world. I have fond memories of growing up in Grand Blanc — both in terms of spending time with my friends and finding things to do within my community.
In 2014, just after my thirteenth birthday, I moved once again, this time to Charlotte, North Carolina. I did away with small towns, as well as being one of the only brown men at my school. I traded my Pistons jersey for a Hornets one, and I traded my experiences of living in Grand Blanc for living in the 16th-largest city in the US and attending an overcrowded high school in a growing city. Moving during the middle of your youth is always childhood-defining, but I adjusted quickly. Still, though, the memory of Grand Blanc never subsided. I never forgot my Michigander roots, and shortly after moving I always made it a point to bring up how much better the North was. Even today whenever I’m faced with North Carolinian snow I just love making snide remarks about how I’m ‘built different’ because the North raised me. I always remember my ties to Grand Blanc.
I never visited, though. The drive from Charlotte to Grand Blanc clocks in at nearly 11 hours, and plane tickets were out of my reach before I ever started earning my own money. So, I just decided to move on. Of course, I tried to keep in touch with my old friends, but correspondence becomes fairly difficult to maintain over time, so we lost touch. That’s why I was surprised when my childhood best friend DM’d me on Instagram asking if I was down to visit Grand Blanc for a weekend. I booked my plane tickets to the Flint Bishop Airport right away.
Abruptly flying to Flint is probably one of the most spontaneous things I’ve ever done, but I had literal dreams of reuniting with my childhood friends, flipping through the old elementary school yearbooks and reigniting old memories — and that’s exactly what we ended up doing. My friends and I picked up where we left off, as if there wasn’t an eight-year gap since we last spoke.
My buddy then offered to drive me around Grand Blanc to show me all the relics from my childhood, to which I took him up. From the passenger’s seat, I then had a first-hand view of how my hometown had changed in the last decade. It was strange to see what I remembered, and what had changed. The Blockbuster I used to spend my Fridays in was long gone. They built new hangout spots for kids to hang out at, which I’m sure I would have spent a majority of my time at had I never moved.
It was when we drove past my childhood home when it hit me that all I had left of Grand Blanc were fading memories of a life I had long since grown apart from. The new residents of my old home had made it their own, but to me, it was still my house. This was the driveway where I first learned how to ride a bicycle, where I learned how to skateboard, where I had endless snowball fights with my brother. Driving around after that, it finally processed that life continued after I left. We subsequently went to our old elementary school playground, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling. The playground looked exactly as I left it, yet it wasn’t mine anymore.
Grand Blanc had moved on without me, and I finally realized that fact. It gave me the closure I surely needed, though. Grand Blanc moved on, and so did I. As spontaneous as it was, I’m glad I made the trip. Chilling with my childhood friends was such a great experience, and hey, now I no longer have any urges to look up my old home on Google Earth. Grand Blanc is no longer mine, but I’m happy to leave it in good hands.
— Rhys Banerjee, music beat writer
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