My More Than Cultural Relationship With Pittsburgh

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Oh, Pittsburgh,  our relationship has been rocky – for years we tried to connect, always just out of reach, until I decided enough was enough, and waltzed straight into your arms. We’ve been going steady for almost a year – things were going really well – but I must confess I was looking for love behind your back. You were good to me, so good, but you’re cold and I crave warmth. You are home, someplace cozy to return, and I desire adventure.

Our story began four years ago, when I was both innocent and naive. You were only a pit stop, a momentary pause on my journey to Guatemala, and though I found myself staring out the window as we drove around the city, any love I felt was lost when I experienced my first accident on one of your many bridges.

Twice more I returned over the next year, still using you only for your airport. That would change, soon, when my best friends moved to you. My visits became more frequent, though something about you made me nervous, intimidated. I kept my distance, opting to stay in suburbia instead of downtown, but my curiosity was piquing. I wanted more.

pittsburgh

Photo Courtesy of Sean Pavone via Shutterstock

Two years ago I took an extended vacation and came to explore. The neighborhood of Oakland, home to Pitt, CMU, and Carlow, felt like the perfect place to start. I soon discovered Pennsylvania’s version of Hogwarts: Pitt Cathedral of Learning. Walking inside for the first time I felt how I imagine Harry Potter felt walking into the Great Hall of Hogwarts — starstruck, overwhelmed by the massive open space, the stonework, and the general chill throughout the building.

From Oakland I ventured downtown, or I suppose I should say “dohntown,” for the first time to visit a friend.

Driving in the city is a nightmare but somehow a few wrong turns led to me discovering Mount Washington, the best place to view the city from a distance. As I stood at the overview, looking down at the city before me, I was awestruck. A sense of longing overcame me – though I’ve always been a country girl, you captured my heart in that moment.

I was unaware of it then; however, as I watched the city bustle below, that moment become the inspiration for a change in my life.

pittsburgh

The view that started it all

Flash forward a few months, I’m sitting in my room, staring at the wall, feeling trapped and frustrated, yet unsure of what to do. The life I’d built for myself, somewhat unwillingly, in my small town had managed to crumble in a matter of days. Everything that I thought my future held had been thrown out the window. My heart was broken, my job went out the window, and the people I thought would stand by my side through everything had walked away. As dramatic as it may be, I felt I had no option but to run and try to start over.

Once I made the decision to leave, it was less than two weeks before I was running straight to your arms, Pittsburgh.

In typical Sky fashion, I was pathetically unprepared. I arrived with half a tank of gas, $60, and a case of ramen noodles. Yet you welcomed me with open arms and within days I had two jobs, both of which I would come to love, and a place to stay.

A month later, I was wondering why I hadn’t moved sooner.

The bookstore and cafe down the street became my favorite place to go. In fact, I spent more time tucked away in the corner writing and reading there than I did at home. There were concert venues in nearly every direction I turned, from small DIY music spaces to PNC Park. The Altar Bar, a church-turned-music-venue, quickly became my favorite and I spent night after night inside the crowded venue, dancing to bands I never would have been able to see in my hometown. Then there was the DIY scene in Garfield, which was basically what I had been looking for my entire life — a bunch of young adults doing what they love because they love it and sharing that art with others.

Pittsburgh.

Honus Wagner Statue at PNC Park Entrance in Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy of Robert Pernell via Shutterstock.

Pittsburgh, you gave me everything I ever wanted but didn’t know I was looking for. I slowly morphed from a naïve country girl to a Pittsburgh girl. “Yinz” and “pop” became acceptable words to use and black and gold became my sports colors of choice.

Yet, as the months flew by, I began to grow restless once again. The country girl had wanted the city but now the city girl wanted more. Travel became the focus of my thoughts and though I tried to stay loyal, I cheated.

Running to you, Pittsburgh, was the best choice I made but, well, booking a plane ticket is a close second.

The past few months have been bittersweet, as I try to take advantage of every moment with you and still prepare for the adventure of a lifetime. Goodbye is never easy, but I know in my gut that leaving is the right thing to do. I’m taking comfort in the fact that I know this isn’t goodbye forever. You see, while I need to leave, to travel, I also know that eventually I will return — your hold on me is far too strong to say goodbye forever.

Contributed by Sky Fisher.

 

Jessica Festa
Jessica Festa is the editor of the travel sites Jessie on a Journey (http://jessieonajourney.com) and Epicure & Culture (http://epicureandculture.com). Along with blogging at We Blog The World, her byline has appeared in publications like Huffington Post, Gadling, Fodor's, Travel + Escape, Matador, Viator, The Culture-Ist and many others. After getting her BA/MA in Communication from the State University of New York at Albany, she realized she wasn't really to stop backpacking and made travel her full time job. Some of her most memorable experiences include studying abroad in Sydney, teaching English in Thailand, doing orphanage work in Ghana, hiking her way through South America and traveling solo through Europe. She has a passion for backpacking, adventure, hiking, wine and getting off the beaten path.
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