Some people have asked me how I decided on Philly when I moved. This is what I did.
What you need:
Assorted Colored Pencils/Crayons/Markers/Paints
A Piece of Paper
Next, I drew a color code key. It went something like this.
Red Dot— Someone I call a comrade lives here
Red Exclamation— Positive memory of this place, returning
Warm Yellow- Bands of familiarity/places I have been ( neutral )
Orange Star- Meals that conjures home or happiness
Green Dot— Someone I trust or admire lived here
Blue Dot— Someone I call a friend lives here
Teal Band— Driveable to the Ocean
Mageneta Heart— Family (Chosen Included) live here
Purple Dot— I can afford to live here
This spell was originally was written on August 28th, 2019 at 05:34 pm as a tiny letter.
I write this letter to you all, from a place of gratitude. I’ve spent the last year working on cultivating a life of abundance, letting go of the trauma and a feeling of scarcity. That isn’t an easy task for an anxious Jewish New Yorker residing in the Paris of Appalachia under a microscope and in late capitalism.
I’ve moved 305 miles away from the place I called home for six years. I am newly settling into my new home. Lately, I noticed my face softened from its former wince when I am asked: “So why did you move to Philadelphia?” When I recoiled at this question it was to stop myself from repeating the easy narrative “Well, I moved to Pittsburgh for love and it didn’t work out”. Most people move for love, for a job, because of illness or responsibility, something good or something bad. I moved for me. I can now say that is enough. I am a good enough reason. I moved knowing I would be moving with all of me. My baggage, my hurts, I did the work to understand this and feel confident in my choice.
When I broke up with my fiance I knew that it was time to leave. I was not meant to stay in Pittsburgh, I had moved there to support his dream of becoming an academic faculty professor, to support him through his Ph.D. In my early 20’s I was naive enough to think that would earn us a place in the middle class. In the process, I went from struggling to make ends meet, being a terrible cocktail waitress, an over-eager night shift customer service worker, dog sitter, burnt out data analyst, to building community, experimenting with art projects and networks of care, to challenge myself and all the messy self-actualizing work that leads me to be this particular person writing here today.
As I write this I resist a trauma response to explain in detail the depths of pain that go along with ending a near decade long near marriage just shy of turning 30, suicidal parents (his and mine), the anguish of being pushed out of a project you give all of yourself to, what it is like when a toxic person enters your life at your most vulnerable, the strain on your sense of self when you are tasked with becoming the public face of something very much in flux.
My mind always strays to memories of my first seder in Pittsburgh where I hosted his entire Philosophy Department and their families when I introduced two brothers from Arkansas to Gefilite Fish, the magic 8 balls I gifted to my friend’s 12-year-old who as since transitioned and is now becoming an adult, taking Doula classes, learning about epoxy, fabric dying, my beloved girl gang, the fail party I hosted where I asked everyone to bring and leave behind one object symboling a failure. We hold good and bad memories, our bodies hold on to pain and job. Leaving Pittsburgh was so bittersweet, and starting a new life on my own terms in Philadelphia is as daunting and exciting as you might expect. Choosing abundance means honoring hurt and joy. I have learned to not dwell but always remember in each memory life lessons I hold in my heart and body all the days of my life.
When you are done plotting all the data points that feel most relevant to who you are and what you need to figure out where you want to go. That is where you belong. When I was complete, I looked at this semi-objectively and said. Philadelphia, this must be the place. Once you’ve made up you mind discard of the piece of paper in a way that feels right. I buried mine in the backyard of my old apartment.
When I left New York in 2013 I was a community organizer leaving her community, this was also true of letting go of Pittsburgh.
This time I am equipped with so much more, with gratitude for the hearth keepers of the world you warm me, with the fortitude and openness to receive abundance and opportunity I once feared I did not deserve, with the courage to allow myself to be softer and with the knowledge that I have built the muscles to investigate what is laid before me and take chances.