I’m just as surprised to be writing about you too. You haven’t been in my life for an entire year, but living here has taught me more about myself then I have learned in 23 years. While you are still not my favorite place to be, I can only be grateful for the lessons you’ve given me.
When I first visited you in June, there was nothing about you that caught my eye or struck me. I didn’t experience love at first sight. I didn’t find anything negative about you, but I struggled to discover the positive aspects that would make me feel at home. I ate your food, explored your neighborhoods, but nothing drew my heart closer to you.
Desperate to branch out of my comfort zone and experience life beyond what I had known it to be, I was eager to move. I was excited about the prospects you would reveal behind your brown pollution cloud and rich American history. And you haven’t disappointed. By next semester, I will be filled with knowledge that couldn’t be learned anywhere else but here.
Though it is filled with critiques, I am attending one of the best social work programs in the nation. I have been supported by professors and administrators alike who have provided me with opportunities to expand my knowledge. I have been offered an internship that has taught me the power of boundaries. I am challenged, not with curriculum, but the way that I think about things, about what I choose to believe. I have created connections I would not have made anywhere else. I am able to experience an education that will undoubtedly impact my social work career for years to come.
Pittsburgh, you had given me the gift of solitude when I didn’t realize it was necessary. To live outside your comfort zone is vastly different than experiencing short-term. For the past four years, I was surrounded by love and support in the form of my Chicago family. I left this support, this community, to live in solitude. This has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. With only two people I knew in the entire state, I have been forced to put myself out there and seek relationships that will provide meaning in my short time here in Pittsburgh. Admittedly, this has been difficult. The moments I usually fill with people, I’ve had the opportunity to be with myself.
Solitude has changed my outlook on life. I value myself more, am grateful for the quiet moments. Before you, Pittsburgh, I would cry softly to make sure that no roommate could hear me. Now, I weep at every moment and feel no shame in doing so. I dance loudly to music on Saturdays, when I should be cleaning. I take off my pants when I enter my home. When I write in my journal, I write with more honesty. No one is watching. I dance with more passion because no one can judge. I am more me than I ever was, and my solitude has made me unapologetic for the Hannah I’ve become. No matter where I am, I can find a home, and it is now within myself, not in others.
I still don’t like you very much and will be excited when I get to leave you permanently. But who knows — you may teach me something in 2018 I am unprepared for, and then, maybe, just maybe…you’ll have my heart forever.