The many magical ways Pittsburgh affirmed my decision to move here
I am not an adventurous person by nature.
I don't readily embrace change. I'm a person who takes quiet comfort in staying put, driving the same roads to work, seeing long-familiar friends, and eating lunch at the deli that knows how much mayo I want on my sandwich. But one day I realized that clinging to the familiar comforts of the past were responsible for my present-day dissatisfaction and unhappiness. What I had perceived as a life vest had turned into a stone weight--and it was dragging me down mightily.
On that day, I knew I was going to make a big change. I didn't know the what, where, or how, but I didn't care. I felt giddy--and hopeful--for the first time in several years. Saying good-bye to Providence, Rhode Island, the place I had called home for nearly forty years, at last seemed possible. Leaving Southern New England would be a big help to my financial and familial responsibilities, but where did my future lie?
That's when I considered Pittsburgh. The city offered all the things I loved about Providence: both cities navigated post-industrial transitions, they are community and connection-focused and steeped in arts, culture, and academia.
For generations, Rhode Island had been home to my extended family, but changing times and economies had prompted a westward migration in search of affordable living and employment opportunities. By coming to Pittsburgh, I would be closer my family in the midwest and I would live in a place that felt and looked very familiar.
Once I made my decision, the tiny miracles began to happen. As the late Randy Pausch once said, "Luck is where preparation meets opportunity." As luck would have it, my first Google search to learn more brought me to Pop City and an article written by Karen Lillis
about creative industry professionals relocating to Pittsburgh: where they chose to live, experiences compared to other cities, and their levels of satisfaction.
One interviewee, painter Victoria Cessna, talked about relocating from Providence several years earlier. Providence? I couldn't believe my eyes! Within moments, I emailed an introduction, asking her if she had time to tell me more. She did.
It wasn't long before I found myself enroute to Pittsburgh. With Victoria's help I had an appointment with a realtor, suggestions of neighborhoods to explore and the name of the coffee shop where Victoria was showing her paintings.
While enjoying a coffee and Victoria's artwork at Lili Café in Polish Hill one day when visiting Pittsburgh, a tall blonde woman chatted with the man working behind the counter. When I overheard her say, "I have an appointment coming up--someone Victoria knows from Rhode Island," I couldn't believe what I heard. I gave a little wave in their direction and said, "Excuse me, but I think you're talking about me. I'm from Providence and I'd like to move here."
The three of us shared a moment of shocked silence before breaking out into laughter. Three days later, I saw the house that would ultimately become my home.
Once I moved here, I quickly discovered that breaking into the Pittsburgh social scene wasn’t all that different from where I had come from. Rhode Island is often jokingly referred to as having two degrees of separation due to its small size and tight-knit family structures. I found Pittsburgh to be remarkably similar.
Whether it was through joining my neighborhood civic association, volunteering with groups like Allegheny Cleanways, or participating in Meet-Ups, talking to people about their experiences living and work here proved to be an invaluable and very interesting way to navigate networks and make new friends and connections.
A few months later when I discovered that Karen Lillis, writer of the Pop City article that started me on my way, lived a few houses down the street, I was not terribly surprised. Through fortuitous encounters and seemingly random acts of good luck, Pittsburgh has a funny way of affirming my choice in coming here and calling this my new home.
Earlier this summer I was able to complete the circle by attending the welcome dinner organized by Pop City, Vibrant Pittsburgh and the World Affairs Council--a social gathering held at various homes throughout the city where new arrivals could socialize, network, and swap stories about surviving Pittsburgh's tangle of highways when GPS fails.
When the event coordinator informed me that I'd been assigned to the dinner at the home of Pop City publisher Tracy Certo, I knew the fates were smiling down upon me--and would I have a story to share! (Note: the next welcome dinner is scheduled for late October. Look for details in Pop City soon.)
On the night of the newcomer dinner, over a glass of wine and delicious pastries, I told this very story to the group of attendees with reactions ranging from laughter to amazement at my good luck. Mentioning that I wanted to find a way to pay-it-forward, I gladly accepted the offer to share my words with Pop City readers.
The thought that my story might help inspire another person looking to make a change and move to this interesting and vibrant city makes me smile. Who knows what odd coincidences and connections they, too, might find!