Breaking up with Pittsburgh is hard to do

I lived in Pittsburgh for 14 years. That’s longer than I’ve lived in any other place. Even though I moved around a lot growing up, I didn’t have plans to leave Pittsburgh. If I didn’t have to move I don’t know if I would have.

The road to my departure started when I applied to a graduate program in information security at Carnegie Mellon University. Most people who apply to Carnegie Mellon do so because it is one of the best computer science schools in the country. I applied because it was one of the best schools in the country AND it was local.

I didn’t apply to UC Berkley or Stanford or MIT because I wasn’t looking to leave Pittsburgh.

Carnegie Mellon is not only a very good school, but it is also a very expensive school. In looking for funding options I found the Cybercorps Scholarship for Service, which provides full ride scholarships to students studying information security who are willing to work for the Federal Government after they graduate.

I applied for the scholarship thinking about “Free money!” and largely ignoring the fact that most Federal Agency jobs are not in Pittsburgh.

I got the scholarship. I got my degree. I got my government job offers: two in DC, one in Baltimore. I was officially moving.

I sold a friend my swanky, South Side, condo in a converted 100+ year old school and moved to a generic, beige, one-bedroom apartment in Arlington, Va.

In Pittsburgh I was active in the amateur/semi-pro theatre community and had a lot of friends because of it. There were certain places (bars) that I knew I could go to at any time and probably run into someone I knew. I was constantly invited to shows, parties, and karaoke nights.

In DC, I knew one friend who had moved their years ago, and I knew other Carnegie Mellon alumni, most of whom moved to the DC-area for the same reason I did. However, those friends spanned the region from Baltimore to Quantico. We were all in the DC-area, but not near to each other. The only alumni I saw with any frequency were the ones who were also working at the GAO.

I signed up for AIM, specifially to chat with friends in Pittsburgh. I was lonely, and I didn’t know how to meet people.

I started online dating. (On Craigslist because paying to join a legitimate dating website seemed desperate.) I had some dates, and managed to not get maimed or killed.

One of those guys took me to Five Guys for the first time. For that introduction I’m incredibly grateful.

A few months later I met my now-husband (at work, not on Craigslist), and I was adopted by his friends. I didn’t hate DC, but it still didn’t feel like home.

When my now-husband said that before he met me he had been planning to move to Chicago I quickly told him I’d love to move to Chicago, so we did.

Chicago has a lot in common with Pittsburgh: blue-collar backgrounds, record-breaking numbers of bridges*, parking chairs (but Chicago calls then “dibs”).

I like Chicago. It is my home. I’ve lived here for seven-and-a-half years. That’s the longest I’ve lived in any one place other than Pittsburgh.

I am glad I left Pittsburgh. If I never left I wouldn’t have met my husband and had our two wonderful children. Chicago is our home. We have friends here, some we knew before and others we have met since moving here. We love the museums and concerts and plays and the lake. We love our neighborhood. We have no plans to leave at this time.

Still, it’s hard not to think about Pittsburgh.

I often meet other people from Pittsburgh (including other ChicagoNow bloggers like him and her). I always feel an instant connection to my fellow diaspora members. We are tied together through that place where we once were.

It’s been almost 10 years since I lived in Pittsburgh. There are definitely things I miss about Pittsburgh. There are definitely things I don’t miss about Pittsburgh. But Pittsburgh will always be a part of me.

*Pittsburgh has the most bridges of any city in the world, and Chicago has the most movable bridges of any city in the world.

ChicagoNow bloggers are given optional weekly writing prompts. This is my entry for “Breaking up is hard to do.” Read the other posts from this prompt here.

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You can also find Kim Z. Dale on Twitter and Google+ and like Listing Beyond Forty on Facebook.

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