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I’ve been writing this post in my head for about a month now. Actually, I’ve probably been writing it for longer than that, but it started to shape itself into a post about a month ago. It occurred to me that in sharing with all of you my answers to “Why Cleveland?,” I haven’t shared fully what keeps me here – what’s brought me back here more than once. As amazing as the culture and the restaurants and the museums are, that’s not the reason I make my life here. And, don’t worry, there will be plenty more talking about culture and restaurants and museums to come. But, for today, I wanted to share my CLE story…
I’ve left CLE twice and come back twice. And my CLE story is much more about the coming back than about the leaving. The first time I returned to CLE, I had just finished graduate school. I had the job of my dreams waiting for me. I had an adorable house to live in. And I was back in the town where I grew up – older, wiser, ready to take on the world. I felt like Mary Tyler Moore or something. I was on top of the world.
This Sunday, it will be two years since I returned to CLE the second time. And that time felt very different. My personal life had disintegrated seemingly overnight (it’s never really overnight though, is it?). I didn’t know what life held the next day, the next week, the next month. But I knew I needed to go home. I quit my job, moved back to CLE, hunkered down in CLEparents’ house, and tried to ride out the storm. I was the lowest I have ever been.
But both times I returned to CLE it was my choice. Even the second time, when it felt more like a visceral reaction to pain, it was most definitely a conscious choice. Both times I’ve returned to something that is here and nowhere else. It would be easy to say that what drew me back to CLE both times was family and friends. They are and always will be my main anchor here. But it’s more than just that.
I’ve found opportunities in CLE. I’ve found a city that – like me – has had it’s ups and downs, but perseveres and – dare I say – thrives. Each time I’ve come home, life has taken unexpected and mostly wonderful twists and turns. I’ve found (and am still finding) a million reasons to raise a family here, to make a life here. CLE has embraced me at one of the best times in my life and at the worst.
I think the thing to remember – the thing that makes this not just my story – is that we all choose to be here. None of us are stuck. We choose, in big and little ways, to make this our home. For each of us, the true reasons “Why Cleveland?” are different.