My “real” home is in Rochester, New York. Known to most as the birthplace of Kodak and Xerox, I see the city as the start of me. Rochester is where I learned to walk and to drive. It’s where I fell in love with lilacs, got my first summer job, and became the best benchwarmer on the varsity girls basketball team.
When I left for college in 2002, I chose a school outside Rochester, but one close enough that I could also easily visit family on those needed weekends home. St. Bonaventure University rests in Olean, New York, only two hours from my parents’ house. The town is far from one of hustle and bustle, but my college experiences helped kickstart my journey of exploring new places – including eight more city “homes” to date.
I could write for days about the beauty and culture that encompasses each city where I’ve lived. I loved Denver for the sunshine and mountains, Perugia for the piazzas and New Orleans for the music and undeniable power of its locals to live fully in the moment (for better or worse).
But, now that I’m settled in New York City – a place where I actually plan to stay for awhile – I look back on all my other cities with a new perspective. Each has those same charms listed in travel magazines. However, each also presents a unique milestone in my life.
Perugia, Italy – My first experience abroad (Canada doesn’t count when you grow up next to the U.S. border). I discovered and enjoyed a lot of gelato here.
Orlando, Florida – My first time being forced to say goodbye to friends who I may never see again. This is also where I spent my first Christmas away from family…and worked at Walt Disney World.
Denver, Colorado – My first city post-college. It was liberating, intoxicating, scenic and stimulating. This is also where I learned what it really feels like to find inner peace.
Chicago, Illinois – My first experience living in a major city. This is where I first lived with a boyfriend, and then also first lived on my own. God bless that magical studio apartment in Old Town.
Kigali, Rwanda – My first experience walking the streets as a minority on a daily basis. I also learned how little food I need to survive and how intensely I crave chocolate when stressed.
New Orleans, Louisiana – My first experience living in a paradox. I also drank more daiquiris than ever and found my passion for social justice.
This St. Patrick’s Day I visited Chicago, my home from 2009-2011. While I had fewer than 48 hours in town, the trip was just long enough to remind me of the importance of good friends, green rivers and late-night vegetarian hot dog stands. Chicago itself had barely changed. And, despite a few new engagements and apartments, neither had my friends.
My parents still live in the same Rochester house where my siblings and I grew up. To this day, I enter that same red front door from my childhood and feel comforted by the memories within the walls. The front stairs don’t creek like they used to. But, the feeling is much like I felt when I returned to Chicago. A few new structures altered the scenery. But, the memories flowed down the green river as if they happened only days before.
We all know there’s no place like home. But, if you’re like me and have spent long enough in one city to create second, third and fourth homes, you’ll realize that sentimental comfort can arrive in many places. It can weave through a city and be delivered by the presence of friends. There’s no place like home, because home, no matter where it is, has the memories.