I do it a lot — the whole “compensating” for not living in a super admirable, bucket-list, destination, dreamt-of-it-since-you-were-a-kid kind of city. If you want to call it “compensating.” Let me give you some examples:
“Cleveland is just my 2 to 3 year plan. I’ll definitely end up in Chicago or New York, or maybe even out on the west cost.”
Text to Dad a few weeks ago: “LBJ came back to Cle today. Guess it’s an OK place to live.”
Take Instagram photo of the sand at Edgewater Beach and caption: “Let’s pretend this isn’t Cleveland.”
It was this morning that I drove into the city from my adorable, quaint little town called Lakewood on the west side. I was coming to my awesomely trendy new office building, the E&Y Tower, in the Flats East Bank of Cleveland. I work in advertising, so many of my coworkers are super artistic. A few were outside the office facing the opposing brick wall drawing Cleveland-y things in chalk.
That was when it hit me. It’s OK to like Cleveland.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I guess it was imparted on me at a young age that a strong rivalry with Cleveland, Ohio and the Browns came with the territory of growing up where I did. But, when offered my first job right out of college in Cleveland, I said yes. Definitely, yes.
Lucky for me, when I moved here to start a job, so did at least five of my pals from college. So I wasn’t going at it alone. We were all excited to get here, out on our own…but there was no hiding that slight sense of — um — disappointment that we weren’t plotting our new weekend extravaganzas in downtown Manhattan or on the west side of Los Angeles. Anytime someone would question our backstory, we were so quick to jump to, “I’ll probably be getting out of here soon. This is a temporary place.” “Oh, I like it, but this is just my ‘starting-out city.’” But the contradiction was never far to follow, when we found ourselves doing something Cleveland-y, and saying, “Hey. Cleveland is pretty cool. I’m actually really happy here.”
Here are some great examples of what makes this city pretty damn sweet:
1. Local Brews/Local Eats/Local Local Local.
Cleveland is all about some good, ol’ local love. The patrons of the city support these local establishments, and act as free PR reps because they sincerely believe in them, and they truly love them. From restaurants, to breweries, to little graphic t-shirt shops, there’s a long list.
2. Scenic Stuff.
From Edgewater Beach, to Lakewood Park, to watching the sun rise over Lake Erie from a spinning studio in the Flats, Cleveland is actually a lot prettier than what you might hear through the grapevine. It also has really cool stuff to do, like the renowned Cleveland Museum of Art and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Who doesn’t want to do that on a Saturday afternoon? (Not to mention, every so often, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame welcomes a yoga studio to host this big outdoor yoga event with hundreds of participants.)
3. Flea Markets.
So many flea markets. And not the trashy kind. Cleveland flea markets feature beautiful artwork, handmade furniture, rustic décor and personalized jewelry. You are sure to find a gem that is special to you if you visit one. Oh, and there are food trucks, which make these events even more legit.
Burning River, Ale, The Feast of the Assumption…the list goes on. Cleveland does fests, and it does them right. After all, why not throw a party to celebrate all these delicious local craft brews?
Or should I call them Believelanders? It’s no secret that this city has had some hard times in the past. But the people here really believe in Cleveland, and they want to better it. Everyone is on the same team.
I could keep going with this list, but I hope you get the point. You might be saying, “Well, most any city has special things like all of those that make it unique.” You’re right. The point is, it doesn’t have to be LA, or NY or Chicago for people to want to live there. For people to aspire to live there.
It’s not LeBron coming back to the Cavs. It’s not the Browns signing Johnny Manziel. Those were two really awesome things that this city, and its sports fans, deserve… but that’s not what makes Cleveland. It might be what gets it on the news and builds its resume, but it doesn’t make or break the greatness.
I love my job. And I love the people I’ve met here. If that isn’t enough to keep me here, loving my new home itself just might be.
Maybe I’ll end up in one of those destination cities that girls make Pinterest boards about like I had always planned. Maybe not. All I know is, right now I’m not really worrying about it.
Out of the thousands of things the city of Cleveland has taught me in the past year, as it has helped me grow into who I am, there is one that is most important: It’s OK to like it here. And it’s OK if I decide I want to stay.