A Love Letter to the Town I'm Leaving

I move into Pitt tomorrow.  It's been a fast, fast summer.  I've said my goodbyes now.  Now, we're just 24 hours away.  I've been spending my last day contemplating this small town.

Honestly, I have spent a lot of time wishing my way out of this place, knowing that there's a more diverse, accepting, urban area out there somewhere.  I've longed to be gone, longed for my college years for longer than I'll actually spend in college.  But now, I'm here.  And somehow, I'm wishing I could stay.

In Lin Manuel Miranda's lesser-known Tony-winning musical "In the Heights," there's a song called When You're Home.  Throughout the song, two characters recap their childhood memories, premising that "the street's a little kinder when you're home."  I can see that now.  I sit here on my bed at home, surrounded by countless knick-knacks and belongings that are all a piece of me.  I'm leaving them all soon.  The proposal signs from boys in high school, the books I bought at my favorite used bookstore, the binders full of show scripts that I never could quite throw out....I mean...the binders of show scripts that I burned because they are copyrighted material...all of them are part of me.  They're what I have grown up with.  I'm just about to leave that past behind.

There truly is no place like home.  I will miss these wicked winds, the ones that force us to take the American flag off of our flagpole so that it doesn't tear.  I will miss the forests of trees turning orange in the fall and being able to drive a few miles across McNally in order to reach my best friend's house.  I will miss the close proximity of everyone (and everything) that I love.

The Morning Grind - my favorite coffeeshop, the one that has stayed in business (and successfully so!) despite all odds, despite every groaning person who says Johnstown can't support small businesses.

The Shake Shak - the place where I have worked for all four years of high school, the place with the best ice cream in town, where every coworker was also a friend.

My grandparents - I won't be able to join them for Sunday brunch every weekend, but I know I'll be constantly FaceTiming my Mimi.

Everyone from high school - You're all special.  You're all going to be something wonderful.  Keep working hard.

There are so many small things I'm going to miss.  I never realized it until they were all almost gone.

In my work with the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies this summer, I learned a lot about this area and the way people think about it.  I spoke to a lot of different individuals, both positive and negative.  But a quote from my fellow interns' funding project really stuck out to me.  I'll paraphrase.

"A lot of people feel like they've been robbed of something by being born here, that if they were born elsewhere, they would have had so much more success by now.  They can't wait to get out.  But this simply isn't true."

I felt this way for a number of years.  I was born in a town with no community theater and no public art gallery, where the biggest community event was the Friday night football game.  But you know what?  I sure am going to miss those Friday night games.  And there is truly nothing like being from a small town.  I wasn't robbed of something by being born here.  I was blessed with so much.  I was blessed with the ability to learn people's stories, because you see every face again and agin.  Everyone is familiar.  And to leave you with my former Calculus teacher's favorite quote, "There isn't anyone you couldn't love once you've heard their story." -Mr. Rogers

P. S. While we're at it, if any of you should find yourselves in New York City anytime soon, go see Groundhog Day the musical.  Yes, it may sound ridiculous, but trust me.  It reiterates everything I'm trying to say and then some.  I love my small town.

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