If I’m being honest, the connection I have with my homeland of Pittsburgh isn’t the cut-and-dry devotion that so many people here have. I’m sure many other humans on the planet have mixed feelings about their homes, but when you’re actually back where you grew up, it sometimes feels like you’re the only one who feels that way. So here is a little blog about Pittsburgh & I.
I’ll preface it with a small summary of the culture here, as I’ve grown to understand it in the eighteen years I’ve spent living here. Pittsburgh is a beautiful city at the convergence point of three rivers: the Monongahela, the Allegheny, and the Ohio. This is why we have SO MANY BRIDGES that connect one side of the Pittsburgh area to the other. People living in Pittsburgh love Pittsburgh. Maybe that’s an obvious statement to make, but it applies to so many other aspects of the culture. There’s a weird, prevalent thought that if you grew up in Pittsburgh, you might as well stay here into adulthood, old age, etc., because it’s the best place in the world. We have ((generally)) great sports teams, relatively affordable living, several good colleges in and around the city, and not one, but three rivers at our core, among many other amenities. Why would you live anywhere else?
This may or may not be a common trend in cities pretty much everywhere, but in Pittsburgh, it’s the staple mindset. Most of my classmates from high school stayed here for college, as did the rest of their families. None of this is necessarily bad, and I don’t dislike Pittsburgh for it; I can understand wanting to stay here, especially if your family has such deep roots in the culture here. However, my love for Pittsburgh evolved in a very different way than the ardent pride my neighbors seemed to have been born with.
For better or for worse, my family wasn’t (and still isn’t) big into the sports. My siblings and I each dabbled in them here and there, but nothing stuck. The same goes for our relationship to the seemingly overwhelming sports culture here. My dad kept up with Steelers (football) happenings, but we never really sat around the TV every Sunday night to watch the big game. Growing up, however, these sportsing things were what my classmates always talked about in relation to loving Pittsburgh, and yet again, I was lost Wal-Mart kid.
In addition to this, neither of my parents are from P-town. I come from a long line of Buffalo, New Yorkers and Ecuadoreans. To top it all off, all of my siblings went far away for college, and since then, only one has returned. Basically, ya girl had no Pittsburgh traditions to latch onto, or so it seemed for many years when I was younger. Instead, I took whatever city explorations my family made — generally to a restaurant or show or museum of some kind — and formulated the beginnings of a makeshift bond, a different kind of hometown pride than I had known.
Since then, I’ve come to terms with the odd progression my Pittsburgh connection took, something I admittedly felt embarrassed about at times in my childhood. After my first year at Hopkins, this weird connection has lent itself to an even stronger impetus to continue ardently exploring a place that, on the outside, might seem all too familiar. I’ve taken the principles that I used to truly learn Balti — public transport as mainbae, Facebook events, just asking people, etc — to cultivate a greater awareness of the arts community here, something that has truly made my summer thus far. As I begin to write about it and meet more people involved in its roots, I feel an even greater sense of love for my city, for the strong undercurrent of arts engagement that runs through it. While being home is still taking some getting used to — it’s baseball season, ppl are getting wild — it’s an adjustment that I’m making with gratitude for all the unknowns left to discover.