I first moved to Pittsburgh when I was 13. Ever since, I have tried to get away. In fact, I have moved away from Pittsburgh at least 6 times, only to be pulled back again, and again. Clearly, I have some unfinished business here. I can’t lie, there are many other cities where my ethnic and cultural identity would have much more room for expression, and I would not feel so odd and out of place. Yet, as I pulled away from the city recently, on the top level of a Megabus, watching the familiar landmarks of this city roll by, I realized that this is exactly where I am meant to be. This is where my work is, and I am here for a reason.
What’s more, this city holds pieces of my story, important pieces. For instance, it was in the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Oakland, where as a teenager, I left the public school system, that wasn’t serving my needs, and found solace, comfort for my aloneness, in that old building full of books. I was too awkward for Pittsburgh, but those books allowed me to travel places in my mind and challenged me to think in new ways. I had no agenda or limits, so I would wander the stacks, picking books that caught my fancy, or letting books lead me to other books. Maybe my future would have been better served by staying in school or even going to college early. But with no one to understand or guide me, I did the best I could with what was there. That library was all I had.
It was under the tunnel at Point State Park where I was first kissed. A kiss that is only really memorable because it was my first. And it was followed by my first night with a man, in that hotel, that is just right there, at the edge of the park. He was kind to me, but I remember the view of Pittsburgh most about that night: Point State Park, the rivers, an incline, all that was out beyond those hotel windows. It was much simpler to be with a complete stranger, than to risk having feelings for someone.
It was here in this city that my children were born. Where after 23 hours of resistance, on a night where the moon was shining, I gave birth to my son, in a white house, with too many steps, and a red door. And years later, on a bright and sunny morning, after many less hours than my first, and layers and layers of acceptance, I gave birth to my daughter, in the hospital on the Northside.
Pittsburgh is the place where I have been brought down so low, many times. Each time, not exactly sure how I would make it. It is the place where I have faced deeper and deeper truths about myself. Finding and uncovering layers of strength, previously unknown. And where, I decided that if I was going to be stuck here, and stuck here again, that I was going to learn to be happy here. And that, if I could learn to be happy here, I could be happy anywhere.
So you see this city has woven itself into my life. It has claimed me as it’s own. Even as it struggles to fully embrace me.