I have lived in the same house my whole life. I grew up surrounded by eerie corn fields, that I've never been able to trust. Behind those rows of plants, lays the town that morphed me into who I am. A small town, built on flat land. Mason, Michigan is picturesque in theory. But in reality, it's nothing more than pretty, and historical. Which is to say, I have lived in the same house – the same place – my entire life. But I have never once, felt at home.
My best friend lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, while I live in Mid-Michigan. The past two summers, I've driven down to stay with her for a week. I've been holding onto the idea of going to college there, for the past year. So, clearly I've been fond of this city for a while. But this trip changed everything.
It's a six hour drive from my house, to hers. The first four hours are droning. Without music and books, it wouldn't be survivable. But then, once I got to southern Ohio, and northern Pennsylvania, everything got significantly more interesting. The flat lands around the high way, turned into mountains. Suddenly, the horizon was no longer flat, and lifeless. Those rolling land forms made me feel utterly calm, and at ease. I couldn't tear my eyes away.
And then we got there. Pittsburgh. We drove into the beating heart of the city, and I fell entirely, and unconditionally in love with it. It was as though this new pulse, and my own heart, were completely in synch.
My eyes followed the river, running along the side of the city. An incredible yellow bridge guided my eyes to the grand buildings. I saw ivy growing up perfectly built walls, like something straight out of a painting. I watched people talking animatedly while walking from place to place. Children screaming and dancing in a giant fountain, built in the middle of what felt like a fortress of glass windows. We visited the college campus of my dreams, Carnegie Mellon. I walked amongst students living the life I'd do anything to have. We wondered through Phipps, where we saw the most exquisite flowers and plants. Our feet led us to Southside, where we were in the midst of an extraordinary art festival. Everywhere I went, excitement buzzed around me.
I felt so connected with that city, I'm not sure I could ever be convinced that it was all my imagination. I felt safe there, despite being a small individual, in a vast, powerful place. I trusted the pattern of those streets, that architecture, those sidewalks. This place, was my way out. It's unfamiliar, and unavailable to me now, but being there was enough. It was not just concrete, and street lights to me. I found myself there, as it will forever find me.
I didn't learn much history during my trip. I didn't relax at a resort, or learn any new languages. There was no ancient artifact discovered, or post cards sent. It was a simple trip to a new place. But when I entered Pittsburgh, I found my place in the world. It's my home, without trapping me inside cold wooden walls. That, I think, is the best souvenir any traveler can hope to find.
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