In Which I Doubt Whether Cleveland Is Actually the Right City for Me

Saturday, June 6, 2015

There was a nasty little period of time upon my return to Ohio that I began to worry that I didn't actually like Cleveland at all. In fact, I secretly confessed to one friend, I had briefly become concerned that I hated it.

I know, I know, this sounds crazy. Any longtime friend or reader of this blog knows that my Buckeye State pride is evident in, like, every other post & that I always expected I'd eventually flee to the Cleve. But when I got back to Northeast Ohio - living about 45 minutes away from Cleveland itself - I realized that I don't actually, well, know anything about this city I claimed to have come back for.

"What do you like best about Cleveland?" people asked, & I couldn't answer in specifics beyond some vague sense of camaraderie & that Midwestern feel that I'd missed. "What part of the city do you want to live in?" they wanted to know, & I had no idea because I didn't know any parts of the city. The more questions I got, the fewer answers I had. An afternoon spent in the popular Ohio City neighborhood, which I was alarmed to find seemed more like the suburbs & less like the city, only deepened my sudden concerns. And then, when I started looking or apartments & found that my only options seemed to be suburban duplexes or $1,500-a-month studios (hello, more-than-my-D.C.-rent), I started to to panic: Did I even like Cleveland at all?

Since then, I've started spending more time in Cleveland, something I hadn't actually done much of because I didn't have anything to do here (or anyone to do it with). It helps that I recently started dating someone who lives in Lakewood, a suburb (he doesn't like when I call it that) just a few minutes outside the city. Spending time with him has given me the opportunity to spend some low-key, no-pressure time in Cleveland, without spazzing about whether or not it's the perfect place for me - & increasingly, blessedly, I feel like it is.

I'm starting to better understand that Midwestern cities (save maybe Chicago) are just not the same as East Coast cities, & as it turns out, I had accidentally become a bit of an East Coast snob. After seven years of living in D.C. & then just outside Boston & New York, my understanding of what cities "should" be like is based on concepts that are... just a little bit different than the reality here, what with all the driving & the lack of public transportation & the neighborhoods that feel, to me, like clusters of suburbs. It doesn't mean Midwestern cities are worse than East Coast cities, though I'm sure some other East Coast snobs will disagree - it just means that Cleveland is, in fact, a bit a mental adjustment for me. It's a different way of life, a different kind of city life.

But it's going to be my city life, one of these days here soon, & I am relieved to have been able to spend some time here to alleviate my sudden panic. I am where I'm supposed to be. In CLE I trust.

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