On any given weekend, I find myself running into people who are home, visiting. For them, home has become a place they visit because life has taken them to different cities – usually New York or Philadelphia. Which is much more exciting than this boring old town, Scranton. The city of high taxes and bankruptcy and former coal miners. The city where nothing ever happens. Or so they say, but somehow, I hardly have time to sleep, so something must be happening.
We all know that there aren’t many jobs to come by in this town, so when people leave, you can guarantee they are probably moving on to better things career-wise. Which is cool, if that’s your thing. And not that I don’t want to advance in my career, because I do, but I also would like to be close to the people who have raised me, to the friends who understand me, and the places I know best. But somehow, in 2016, not wanting to leave your family is somehow a weakness – at least it seems that way to me. I can’t count the amount of times that my friends who have moved away have said to me, “You can’t stay attached to your family your entire life, you have to go out and see the world.” But sometimes I don’t know if anyone stops to realize that maybe this arrangement is what makes me happiest, and if so, how does that make it wrong?
The conversation with those who got away is always more or less the same – what they are up to in the city and why they are home visiting. Then they’ll ask what I am up to and I’ll usually say something along the lines of, “Oh, just working. Not much.”
I say this for two reasons – 1) I am not really interested in going into any detail about my life to someone I am seeing in passing and 2) Many times, no matter what I say I’m doing, there will always be some kind of comment or look or indication that ANYTHING would beat being back here.
And I get it, because I once moved away to a city I found much more exciting and I begrudgingly moved back for reasons I wasn’t happy about. Then, for a year after moving home, I desperately searched for another way out. I would not get stuck here.
But then something happened. I started meeting all kinds of wonderful people. People who made amazing art and showcased it in local stores downtown on the first Friday of every month. Comedians who attended open mics, penning fresh new jokes that made us laugh for free. Musicians who wrote their own music, recorded demos and won local awards. People who loved to snowboard just as much as I do. People who hike, people who act, people who dance. After a while, I came to realize, that when it comes to people, NO city is better than another. There are amazing people everywhere.
What made it even better was this: I could meet someone, and given the small proximity of the city, I could run into them again. This was a stark contrast to my time at both Penn State and living in Philadelphia, where if you wanted to form a friendship, you had to really work for it. Which is okay, but not as easy – I was never really good at it.
So, last Saturday at the bar, when I ran into an old friend who is now living in New York City, he asked me, “So how is Scranton?” (To be fair, I don’t think anyone really means to be condescending when they ask that question, but at the same time, more times than not, it does seem to come off that way.)
I’ve come to find that people almost always assume that no one would willfully choose to live here, but instead got stuck here by forces beyond their control. They couldn’t find a job. Or maybe, like me, got out for a few years and had to move back.
I’ve had many people gossip to me about so-and-so getting out and winding up back here as if I hadn’t done the exact same thing. When they realize, half way through their sentence that I did the very same thing, they’ll usually say something like, “Well, it’s different for you. You wanted to come back.” Or, “Well I know you are here but you could leave again, right?”
People have sent me job postings from out of town. Charlotte, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, etc. My response is usually the same, “I don’t really think I want to move right now.”
And it’s true. I’ve considered it many times. I’m not opposed to leaving, but right now, I have come to find I really like it here. And it’s exhausting moving and starting over new, especially for someone who loves people so much. I just do, I love people.
So last Saturday night, when asked, I replied, “I actually really like it here.” Which was different from my usual, “Well, you know, it’s Scranton.”
“Really?” they replied, with curious interest.
“Yeah,” I said. “It turns out I’m a people-person, and the people I love most are here in this city. I like being close to my family and my friends.”
And, even in 2016 when the world seems so very small and begs to be explored, I hope that is enough.