Emma Downs has a fascinating feature in the Sunday Journal Gazette profiling IPFW theater chair John O'Connell. He is a self-described "loud, flamboyant gay," and he thrived in Manhattan with its energy and tempo and the opportunities it provided. He liked finding bohemian ethnic restaurants and taking terrified relatives on city tours on the back of his motorcycle. And yet:
For years, O'Connell said he'd never leave New York. It was his city, he said. He loved its energy, its tempo, the opportunities it provided.
And then he fell in love with his partner of 17 years, artist and gallery owner Jim Williams, and realized New York can get annoying, especially for a person as impatient as he is. After living for a while with Williams in a cramped apartment, O'Connell decided to create a life more suited to “coupledom,” he says.
[. . .]
Their life is comfortable, creatively fulfilling and filled with treasured relationships, old and new, he says.
“This is exactly where I'm supposed to be,” he says. “It's funny. I had to move from New York to the Midwest to finally have the career and life I always wanted.”
It was just a few years ago that Fort Wayne was being prodded to move heaven and earth to attract members of the "creative class," that group so vital to the growth and vibrancy of cities. We needed to develop the arts more, show more tolerances for difference, develop a respect for innovation and flexibility and move away from rigidness, and on and on. Now here's a member of the creative class who moved away from the kind of energy and connections such types are supposed to crave to boring, quiet little Fort Wayne, Ind., to find the career and life he always wanted.
Maybe there's a lesson in there. We can't be something we're not. There are lots of things we can do to improve the quality of life in Fort Wayne, but we should do them because they'll be good for us, not because we think we can fool people who otherwise wouldn't set foot in the place. Let's just figure out Fort Wayne's strengths and build on those, being the city we are. That way, the people we do attract will have a better chance of being happier here, which will make them more likely to want to expend those creative class energies here.