Thursday, May 13, 2010

When your hometown doesn't seem like home

I moved away from Pittsburgh, my hometown, now almost 8 years ago. With every passing month, Pittsburgh becomes the place I know best even less. The last time I was there (about 2 years ago) I stayed in a hotel not even 2 miles from where I lived last just outside of Pittsburgh in Cranberry and could barely find my way around. Last night I went to bed after my Pittsburgh Penguins lost, subsequently playing their last game at the Igloo (aka Mellon Arena or the Civic Arena) which will be torn down. In a way, I was heartbroken that not only was this icon of my childhood closing, but that I haven't seen it in years and wouldn't see its replacement (the Consol Energy Center) for potentially years. This left me asking, when do you change your hometown? When do I stop being a Pittsburgher?

Its easy to calculate how much of my life I have lived in Pittsburgh. But what is probably more important, is which years I spent in Pittsburgh. All of my formal schooling was in Pittsburgh, Kindergarten through 12th grade in North Allegheny School District and 4 years at the University of Pittsburgh. Those years helped form me into the person I am today - everything from my accent to my love for sports. Maybe more importantly, I am a Pittsburgher by nature. What does that mean? Pittsburgh is a unique and inviting big city. People are nice and care about others...unless you are from Cleveland. ;-) People from Pittsburgh are known for amazing deeds within and outside of Pittsburgh. As far as I know, this was established many years ago with Andrew Carnegie, a Pittsburgher at heart even though he didn't move there until he was 13. Now, in the same spirit as Andrew Carnegie, Pittsburghers consistently do amazing things to help others. A good example of this is the recent Here You Go, 1000 umbrellas initiative. People giving away umbrellas to those stuck in the rain in the name of helping one another. Another example is Make Room for Kids, an initiative by a popular Pittsburgh blogger to raise enough money to bring gaming and laptops for sick kids. They raised an amazing amount of money in a short amount of time from Pittsburghers across the globe. Helping, Giving, Caring - these are things engrained in Pittsburghers as deeply as cheering for the Steelers is.

So, when do I stop associating my hometown with Pittsburgh? Is it when I have lived longer somewhere besides Pittsburgh? When I stop missing the city where I have so many wonderful memories? When I don't know my way around it any more in the name of progress? Or, when I stop acting like a Pittsburgher? If its that last one, I hope to God that I never see the day when I don't call myself a Pittsburgher.

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