Philadelphia Metropolis

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My Urban Love Affair

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By Caitlin Croke

I grew up in a Glenside, a small suburban town just five minutes outside the city limits. Yet I lived in an entirely separate universe. My parents grew up in Glenside, all of my friends' parents grew up there as well and everyone knew each other. I have 11 aunts and uncles, nine of which live within a four- block radius At one time, my grandmother had been engaged to my classmate's grandfather. It was a comfortable, close-knit, secure place to grow up as a child. I knew everyone and every part of my community was familiar.

 Growing up, "the city" seemed so distant and scary (this was based off of what was seen on 6ABC nightly news, which I watched with my grandmother). It looked like a place where muggings and murders were the norm. Sketches of the "Center City Rapist" were flashed in front of my eyes numerous times a week (although I'm sure I didn't know what a "rapist" was, I knew it was terrifying). The stories and pictures were always so distant and different to me. These images could have easily been from another country for all I knew. I can't remember a time in the first 13 years of my life where I stepped foot in the city, other than for a Phillies game.Germantown Ave Mt Airy.jpg

This ignorance could not last forever and eventually I went to Independence Mall for a class trip in the 8th grade; which was not nearly as bad as I had feared. In fact, it was fun. I loved history - and surprisingly this place had tons of it. Eventually, I made it to high school and started trekking to the city via SEPTA Regional Rail to go to concerts or visit South Street (without parental approval, of course). Needless to say, I ultimately grew tired of my tiny town. It was good timing since I was headed to college ... which was still in a small town, but it seemed like a city. It was West Chester University. I loved it. I had been so afraid to step out of my comfort zone and yet I was rewarded. So many new stores to see, historical monuments to discover, restaurants to indulge in and people to meet. It was exhilarating, I was finding myself. I was living life.

Then my era of exhilaration came to a close - with graduation.  I moved back into my parents' house in the tiny town. I coached a soccer team with the same club I had played for, I was earning my Masters degree from a small college up the street, I attended church at the same parish, shopped at the same small food market ... and I became restless. But where was I to go? I didn't have anyone to move away with me to an exotic place. I couldn't find a job, except at the local bar as a waitress. I didn't have any money; only student loans.  I was crushed, bored, desperate, furious -- though I'd never tell a soul in that tiny town; it was sacrilege..

And then I fell in love with a boy from Mt. Airy.

He introduced me to a whole new world; a section of Philly that felt like home but was so new and exciting. My perception of city life was transformed. First, he brought me to a neighborhood party at his parent's house (affectionately called "Load Day" because it was a day-long drinking party ... oh how I loved these people). He then brought me to a neighborhood bar that served real beer like Victory and Yards - not just Bud and Miller Lite. This new world was cultured, diverse, friendly, clean, environmentally conscious, fun - there just simply aren't enough adjectives. At the same time, these "city people" were just as active in their neighborhoods and communities as my tiny town was. The crime rate was probably the same as my tiny neighborhood. Every neighbor knew one another. I found that, in fact, the city was not scary at all. It was a place one could easily fall in love with. And I did.

Now, I no longer feel restless and desperate for stimulation in a tiny town.  I still live approximately seven minutes away from that tiny town and see my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends on a regular basis; so my old life is still a part of me. But now, I tell those who ask, "Yes, I live in Philly and I absolutely love it."

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