The Primary Pittsburgh Project

I packed up my bags and moved away from Pittsburgh eight years ago. The reason: a great job. I was recommended for a fantastic position that was in line with my chosen career path and offered a great salary. There was really no reason not to go, and it seemed at the time that all of my friends were moving on to bigger things, bigger cities. I accepted the job with the rationalization that I would only be moving 2 1/2 hours away, and I set a checkpoint – if I didn’t like where I was after five years I would move back home.

My husband and I were newly married and did our best to forge a life in Cleveland. We made some great friends and took advantage of the surprisingly happening night life. (Cleveland still gets better concerts than Pittsburgh, ahem.)

Then 9-11 happened. Like most people I took stock of where my loved ones were and wished I could be closer. My husband and I also worried about not having a support structure when our thoughts turned to starting our own family. Great jobs and great friends were important, but it turned out that family trumped them both.

Just about three years to the day we moved back to Pittsburgh. My husband was able to find a restaurant management position and I – after a futile 6 month search – settled for a barista position. When the restaurant closed unexpectedly and my husband was collecting unemployment, we were saddled with a huge debt we’d accumulated during more affluent times. (“Go ahead and charge it, it’s not like we can’t afford it.”) Thank goodness for Pittsburgh’s low cost of living, and, of course, the support of our families.

Through some good fortune and lots of resourcefulness, we managed to rebound from our bout of underemployment and even began to flourish. We consolidated debt and bought a house in the city. My husband discovered some latent talents during his time off and started a business that not only added to our income but also helped him to find employment in a less volatile industry. I landed a sturdy job with no travel requirements or crazy work schedule. And we had that baby. Our little one is now three and if you ask him about his family, he will excitedly tell you about his mamaws and pappap and pappy, as well as a whole extended family that loves him and – better yet – helps him to grow up.

Occasionally I think if I had taken that job in a, well, sexier city like San Francisco or Chicago or Seattle then maybe we wouldn’t have come home so soon or maybe not at all. And occasionally I have a twinge of regret that I left that job in Cleveland, because it’s taking a really long time for me to get back on a career path. But I don’t think I would be nearly as happy or balanced if I hadn’t come back home.

So thanks, Pittsburgh, for letting me come back home. For forgiving my sin of living in Cleveland. You’re giving me some knocks on the job front, but hey, I deserve it for leaving you.

Promise I won’t do it again, ‘kay?

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