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Make Your City

Kristen on Swing


This weekend marks five adult years of residence in my hometown of Greensboro, NC. To say that I moved back here kicking and screaming is an understatement. To say that staying here is what I imagined myself doing at this point in time is also inaccurate.

However, the one thing we all have to learn in our youth is that where we live is what we make of it. We also learn that the big cities can’t shield us from the changes of life. In fact, according to Salon and the Pacific Standard, if you move to one, you may never move again. Not good for a person who loves to travel like myself.

I recently fell upon Justin Alvarez’s account of studying abroad and staying at college in New York to avoid family in Chicago. I used to have similar feelings. Even though I did undergrad just 90 miles away and masters degree while at home, I did all I could at times to not be engaged or active with various family members.  I’m not sure Alvarez learned fully the impact of missing family things, even with the revelation that his grandfather held on to life just for him.  Thankfully, I was around for my father’s passing, but missed some times with my grandfather and some aunts that passed. My mom is retiring, and I’m thankful that I’m only 10 minutes away and that I’m finally taking up sewing, one of her beloved hobbies. Check out my first garment below(it’s the skirt).

Me in my skirt that I made

The point of the above is first and foremost, that family does matter. If they are halfway decent people, then make an effort to be a part of their lives. I don’t know what I would do without my mom, my aunts and uncles, and my sibling-cousins. The family village is alive and well here in Greensboro and I cherish being close enough to take advantage of that.

Moving on to the feeling of ambition and the wanderlust that moving to bigger cities creates and feeds, Goodbye to All That , both the original essay and the new compilation of essays,  all speak to the need to move on from New York and how it’s not the holy grail.  As I begin my 28th year, much like Didon herself when she left New York, I am seeing the merits of a life well lived in a small city. This line is the real kicker:

Of course it might have been some other city, had circumstances been different and the time been different and had I been different, might have been Paris or Chicago or even San Francisco, but because I am talking about myself I am talking here about New York.

And since I am talking about myself, then, I’m talking about my choice, both active and inactive, to remain in my hometown, the small city, the car-dependent, the less diverse, but still full of fun and surprises and family. I had remind myself of words I wrote in the early days of this space, to check my civic inferiority complex. To appreciate the beauty of all places.

The other link also mentions the need to care for everyone in all cities. For some of us, the best way we can do that is to stay in our hometowns and contribute to the civic environment. To not go into debt to prove something, but to save money and be something.

To make YOUR city and no one else’s. So let’s just call it home.




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