My adopted city is gritty, underdeveloped and dangerous in parts, artsy and hipster in all the right ways, and capable of being so much more than it is.
Philadelphia, I’ve missed you.
There are many reasons why I chose to move back to Philly from my hometown of NYC. But one of the main reasons for my return to Philly is that, unlike NYC which has systematically pushed me–and many other natives and aspiring young folks–out of its reach, Philly has made space for all our millenial seekers and dreamers.
Instead of being overrun with Starbucks and generic imitations of character, Philly is chock full of mom and pop cafes, innovative restaurants and hidden artistic gems. Walking down its streets and alleyways, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve been transported back to this nation’s birth, to a time of unbridled potential. And it’s all a much more affordable experience than in many of the other big cities.
I’ll always have a place in my heart for NYC. But right now, my feelings towards that grand city are love-hate. The city has surely become a subject of jokes; according to The Onion, all 8.4 million New Yorkers left the city in a mass exodus because they needed to, “get the hell out of this sewer.”
The article was certainly worth a chuckle. But then I saw that the New York Daily News published a story just yesterday about how and why various people chose to leave the “huge expensive prison.”
As a cab driver once told me, Philadelphia is “the largest small town.” It’s easy to see why he felt this way. Subjectively, I’ve noticed a sizeable number of community non-profits that focus on the betterment of specific neighborhoods and the city as a whole. Philadelphians are very proud of their city and all that it has to offer. Many of its buildings and homes have remained intact for over a hundred years. And at a micro-level, the Philly accent is so unique that it has been credited as changing the language more, at a faster rate, than anywhere else in the English speaking world.
It’s “Cheesesteak” speech, according to writer and native Philadelphian Jim Quinn.
Unlike in New York City, in Philadelphia you’re allowed to smile at people, and talk to shop clerks and cab drivers. The city is a constantly changing, user-friendly interface that is a beautiful amalgam of DIY, Handyman special and old world charm.
Ultimately, I think one of the main aspects that differentiates Philly from my hometown is its local authenticity. It’s not trying to be anything else–at least, not from what I’ve seen. Sure, it ebbs and flows like any other city, morphing and regenerating, improving and taking steps back.
But while New York City residents wear their city like a title, Philly residents wear it like a nickname.
Philly is undergoing a glorious renaissance, carving a new niche for itself while maintaining a very universal appeal. I’m excited to continue growing with the city where I went to college, where I came of age and became a person.
Philly, thanks for welcoming back.